Even the most optimistic renewable energy proponents concede that, without energy storage, we will never be able to fully realize the benefits of a national smart grid powered by clean energy and backed up by distributed generation systems. We all know that in order to have a truly effective power system, energy storage must play a key role—but in what form?
Last week, I was intrigued by the idea of turning airtight, underground caves into cavernous energy storage systems. According to Maggie Koerth-Baker, author of Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us, these systems—known as Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)—can, in effect, “turn the Earth itself into a giant battery.” According to Koerth-Baker’s recent piece posted at IO9, CAES are considered by many to be “one the most cost-effective ways to store energy on a massive scale.”
When positioned near a power source, CAES can easily and effectively store excess energy generated when demand is at its lowest—no extra large batteries needed. And the best part? That excess energy can be derived from any source—including renewable energy. By combining CAES with off peak wind generation as Koerth-Baker proposes, an intermittent renewable energy source can be used to supplement power when demand is at its peak. CAES systems stores that excess energy as compressed air, which is then released during the day and used to help run onsite power as electric demand rises.
Currently, no systems like the one described by Koerth-Baker exist, but two CAES that store excess energy derived from natural gas—one in Germany and one in Alabama—are currently being used as grid backup. Unfortunately, several planned CAES systems have stalled, mostly due to less-than-optimal geological locations (the cave must be air tight for the compressed air methodology to be effective), but two projects in Texas are currently in the planning stages.
And those projects can’t come soon enough.
According to a white paper released by the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (NAATBatt), the US needs up to “300 GWh of distributed energy storage [DES] systems around the country by 2022.” NAATBatt is comprised of a coalition of 13 industrial companies and electric utilities, including General Motors Co., The Dow Chemical Co., and Duke Energy.
In addition to the usual suspects that make large-scale energy storage difficult, NATTBatt’s paper indicates that one of the biggest hurdles to “deploying DES systems and to realizing the national benefits such systems provide is that the regulation and payment for electricity distribution system infrastructure is, by design, a state and local matter.”
NAATBatt’s recommendations to advance DES systems include the following:
* Establish a coordinated program of geographically diverse, small, and fast-to-implement demonstration projects that will help electric utilities to gain experience with DES systems, standardize their design and applications, and demonstrate their value proposition.
* Create a policy mechanism that will enable local electricity ratepayers to recover the “national interest value” of DES systems in which local ratepayers invest.
* Establish a coordinated nationwide approach to DES regulatory treatment that will permit DES system operators to be compensated for the full range of grid benefits they provide, and include standardized interconnection.
* Continue to coordinate with existing energy storage standards-development process stakeholders and help inform the standardization of battery testing for grid applications.
* Continue to fund research, development, and deployment to reduce DES costs, including cell chemistry, materials and manufacturing, packaging, thermal components, and balance-of-plant-related costs, such as power conversion, interconnection, communication, controls, and protection.
* Implement a national outreach campaign to educate stakeholders about the benefits of DES systems.
So what do you think? Is the deployment of 300 DES systems in the next 10 years an achievable goal or an impossible dream? Is the solution to wide-scale DES deployment considering unusual solutions, like the CAES? And do you think there’s enough support—in the form of funding and R&D—for innovative energy storage development and implementation?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
March 22nd, 2012
5 Proven Social Media Tactics to Engage Your Audience
Extend your outreach and campaign effectiveness with social media. Join Erica Hooper, Strategic Director at S. Groner Associates, to explore social media's (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) opportunities, myths, and real-world tested and proven social media tactics designed to engage your audience. Read more…
April 5th, 2012
for Surface Water Quality
Constantly influenced by natural eutrophication, direct human impact, and a changing climate, surface water is a scarce natural resource needing effective protection. Join Shahram (Shane) Missaghi to explore the function and benefits of BMPs in protecting surface water, and examine three key criteria to insure their successful implementation: water, soil, and climate Read more...
April 12th, 2012
Water Auditing 101
Reduce your water waste and cost! Join Troy Aichele, LEED AP (O+M) of Aichele and Associates LLC to explore the key attributes, uses, and efficiency/cost opportunities of water audits. Aichele will lead a discussion of what a water audit includes, who performs the audit, where and when they should and can be performed, and the opportunities that exist in performing a water audit. Join us and gain an understanding of the potential savings possible, rebates available, and how quickly this unobtrusive work can be implemented from audit to installation to optimize your water use and minimize your cost. Read more...
April 18th, - May 25th, 2012
Sediment and Erosion Control
Master Class Series
Join industry expert and bestselling author Jerald S. Fifield, Ph.D., CISEC, CPESC and Tina R. Evans, PE, CISEC for a comprehensive 6-part online master class and workshop series (0.9 CEUs / 9 PDHs) exploring the ins and outs of effective sediment and erosion control plan design and review based on Fifield’s recently released 3rd edition of the bestselling manual Designing and Reviewing Effective Sediment and Erosion Control Plans (included in your Master Class Series package).