Energy storage. In many ways it’s treated as the ugly stepsister, condemned to stand in the shadows cast by its flashier siblings—the Smart Grid and renewable energy. But those of us well versed in distributed generation and onsite power know that in order to achieve the goal of an efficient, reliable energy systems, energy storage must be a major player. But can energy storage and renewables play nice? That’s a question explored by columnist Mathew Wald in two articles that recently appeared in the New York Times.
Initially, in an article titled “Building Storehouses for the Sun’s Energy”, Wald discusses the attempts by two major players in solar energy to deploy advanced energy storage technologies. Both SolarReserve and BrightSource have begun planning for the construction of four projects (one by SolarReserve, three by BrightSource) “capable of powering tens of thousand of households throughout a summer evening.” [sic] This will be done via four power plants designed to store excess solar power generated by the plants’ solar panels as stored thermal energy via heated salt (which can store more heat than water, and thus allow the stored heat to be used for longer periods of time).
In is follow-up, “The Convoluted Economics of Storing Energy,” Wald elaborates on the economic challenges that often undercut the development of renewable energy storage systems. As he points out, the unique nature of electricity—that it must be both “produced and consumed simultaneously”—means that effective energy storage could be a game changer. As Wald explains, renewable energy sources tend to run fast and high, forcing power plants connected to those sources to switch quickly from traditional fuels—like coal and natural gas—to wind or sun when generation capacity is high, and then switch back as generation drops off. While renewables currently make up a small percentage of overall power generation, this on/off relationship between power plants and solar panels or wind turbines is easily handled—but if the proportion grows, then the problem becomes bigger, and energy storage becomes an integral part of the mix.
So what do you think? Do you agree with Wald, who points out that the problem with storing renewable energy is that “the technology is not complicated, but the economics are”? How can we encourage more R&D for renewable energy storage? And if this hurdle is overcome and a copacetic relationship between the sun, the wind, and the power plant can be created via energy storage, could we finally begin to plan on increasing our dependence on clean energy resources?
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January 26th, 2012
5 Steps to Creating a Successful Public Outreach Campaign
Change starts with people. Whether your focus is stormwater pollution, energy conservation, pavement restoration, or recycling, a successful public outreach campaign resonates with your target audience and leads to long-lasting behavior change. Join Erica Hooper of SGA to explore a proven 5-step approach to crafting a successful outreach campaign based on real-world examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read more…