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Friday, May 25, 2018

Storing Wind and Solar Energy with Batteries: An Explainer


Advanced battery storage unit alongside solar panels and wind turbines

Renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is the most sustainable, attainable, and cost-effective solution to using fossil fuels like coal and oil. As more renewables come online, they’re becoming more of the nation’s overall energy mix. And, that means good things for this country. Even electric grid industry operators agree that clean energy sources from wind and solar are necessary and desirable for a reliable power system. 

Wind and solar-generated electricity is added to the grid to be used and managed, just like other energy sources. While they’re both reliable in generating electricity—and often even more reliable than coal and oil—the excess energy they produce can be stored for later use, like during peak energy needs or for less windy or sunny times.

Battery Basics 

Large scale batteries allow us to generate energy now, then store it and use it later. Why is this relevant to the electrical grid? It's all about supply, demand, and reliability.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists explains: "When there is more supply than demand, such as during the night when low-cost power plants continue to operate, the excess electricity generation can be used to power storage devices. When demand is greater than supply, storage facilities can discharge their stored energy to the grid." Battery storage of electricity is also valuable to smoothing out the electrical system because many energy sources have variable outputs, and human activity can cause usage surges; not to mention storms and other unexpected impacts on the power supply. Additionally, batteries keep a power system healthy by allowing clean energy to be added to the electrical grid; replacing the need for dirty "peaker plants" to add energy that is sourced from fossil-fuels. 

Batteries are improving rapidly. As battery storage improves, the way we generate and use energy will change, too. Batteries will enhance the efficiency of both wind and solar technologies and allow for optimal energy inventories.

Battery Power Innovations 

In past five years, battery development efforts have taken off in high gear. With the cost of producing a battery by almost half since 2013investors are putting a lot of money toward developing batteries that are high quality, high performance, and have multiple applications (think both EV cars and renewables). And, the costs are expected to continue to decline. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance expects the energy storage market to double six times by 2030, describing it as having a similar trajectory to the meteoric growth of photovoltaic technology between 2010 and 2015. 

Batteries are rapidly becoming more robust and adaptable, employing novel materials—including perhaps even running on seawater—and cutting-edge technology. As demand rises, innovations rise to meet that demand. Researchers are increasing the battery life of existing lithium ion batteries (like the ones in your cell phone) as well as thinking of entirely new energy storage solutions including advanced aluminum batteries. 

And, in April of this year, the Department of Energy announced that it will support battery innovation by putting $19 million toward research teams and labs advancing battery technology for electric vehicles. 

Looking ahead, Bloomberg New Energy Finance also confidently predicts that, due to infrastructure developments and technology advancements, the United States will lead the world in battery innovation. Those innovations will extend the reach of clean energy like wind and solar across the country, and likely across the world. 

As more Americans make it clear that they want clean energy, we expect to see even more innovation in storage solutions. 

Here at CleanChoice Energy, we’re excited about energy storage because it supports the clean energy industry's ability to meet energy demand on a robust scale. Batteries are one of many clean technologies that we're watching and exploring. CleanChoice supplies customers with 100% pollution-free clean energy sourced from wind and solar power. Learn how to switch your home or business to clean energy today!


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