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Published on August 21st, 2008 | by Sarah Lozanova

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Renewable Energy: How Storage Can Make it Cheaper & More Reliable

August 21st, 2008 by  


coal power nuclearFor renewable energy to be competitive with coal, natural gas, nuclear, and oil, it needs to be cost effective and reliable. Energy storage is key to achieving this.

Here’s why:

Lower Cost of Renewable Energy

High prices are one of the largest barriers facing renewables. Storage can help overcome this because not all watts are created equal. During peak demand on the electric grid, electric companies will pay more for electricity. Often the additional power needs at this time are supplied by natural gas or oil, which have higher fuel costs, yet can produce electricity at a moment’s notice. The opposite is true during times of low demand, when electricity costs are lower. Solar energy tends to correspond with these price fluctuations by generating large amounts of electricity during times of peak demand.

This is because air conditioning loads are largely responsible for increased electric demand. People tend to crank up the a.c. when the sun it out. Wind energy and other renewable energy sources however don’t necessarily correspond as closely. Storage will allow these energy sources to be fed to the grid during the most lucrative times.

Increasing Energy Autonomy

In an ideal world, each region of the country would have affordable and reliable clean energy sources. The reality is that some regions have outstanding geothermal resources, while others are a hot bed for solar energy. There are times when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow and energy storage helps make each region more autonomous and not rely heavily on long distance power transmission.

Energy storage reduces the need for a extensive national power grid for renewable energy to flourish. That way, North Dakota for example can use large amounts of wind energy and Arizona can use a lot of solar energy.

Reliable Energy Supply

The grid needs a consistent, stable supply of energy that can be adjusted during times of peak demand. Brown outs occur when supply does not keep up with demand, like what we have seen in California. High demand on the power grid often requires oil and natural gas power plants to be fired up to cover short-term electricity demand at a higher price.

Large-scale use of renewable energy will require that it can adapt to variable levels of demand on the power grid. Energy storage allows that electricity output from renewable sources can be cranked up as needed instead of firing up a natural gas or oil power plants.

Promising Renewable Energy Storage Technologies

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About the Author

is passionate about the new green economy and renewable energy. Sarah's experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and is a co-founder of Trees Across the Miles, an urban reforestation initiative. When she can escape the internet vortex, she enjoys playing in the forest, paddling down rivers, or twisting into yoga poses.



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