Energy Storage is important to creating affordable, reliable, deeply decarbonized electricity systems

Posted on 2022-11-11
Have you ever wondered how much the electricity you use costs? Sure we try to conserve energy, turn off lights, make sure our remote sites are not running when idle, but the actual economics behind our energy use is oft-forgotten.
Though the world is still heavily reliant on energy derived from fossil fuels, recent trends in renewable energy have made the traditionally cost-prohibitive energy sources much more accessible.
Before diving into a cost breakdown for renewable energy, let’s first talk about how organizations can begin to calculate and monitor their energy costs.
What is Energy Storage?
The energy storage helps reduce reliance on backup power supplies like generators that rely on fuel to provide energy. Energy storage systems come in all shapes and sizes, providing efficient and sustainable backup power for houses, remote sites, data centers, industrial facilities, and others.
Energy storage can also offset the usage of these generators by using them to charge and only turn them back on when the State of Charge (SoC) reaches low enough levels. However, renewable energy sources like solar and wind have been introduced recently and changed this model. Now, they can supply even more efficient charging and use of renewable energy storage solutions by removing the need for fossil fuels. 
So now that we've established what energy storage is, let’s dive into the available energy storage solutions and how they work.

What are the types of energy storage systems available?

There are numerous methods and sources for energy storage, but the most popular ones include batteries, hydroelectric, compressed air, pumped storage, Hydrogen, and Methane. For this piece, we will be focusing on backup batteries, compressed air, and hydroelectric energy storage.

Pumped Hydroelectric Storage

Pumped hydroelectric storage relies on the kinetic energy generated by the falling movement of water pumped through a turbine or pump. These systems rely on an upper and lower reservoir to manage the flow of water, where water is released from the upper reservoir through the turbine to generate electricity. 
Dams, the primary source of hydroelectric energy, are a prime example of the application of this stored energy, releasing water from their reservoir to provide power when demand peaks.

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)

Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) operates very similarly to hydroelectric storage. Air in the surrounding area, or other compressed gasses, is trapped, pressurized, and stored underground in a natural cave or artificial container with a heat source. When energy is needed, the heat source is activated, pushing the air into an expansion turbine driving a generator, which produces electricity.


Battery Storage

Battery energy storage systems are among the most widespread and accepted solutions for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. They power everything from our phones to cars, houses, and even retail and industrial facilities. Batteries can store electricity by converting it into stored chemical energy, which is converted back to electricity as needed.
Batteries come in a variety of orientations, including lead-acid, metal-air, lithium-ion (Li-Ion), and sodium-sulfur. Li-Ion batteries are leading the pack in terms of growth, as they offer high efficiency, energy density, and overall power output. Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) often use batteries to provide near-instantaneous energy supply in the case of outages.
So now that we've gone over some of the most popular energy storage systems and how they are applied to everyday use cases, we should discuss why energy storage is so important.

Why should you care about storing energy?

Energy storage carries importance for such a wide range of applications, but why should you pay attention to developments in energy storage now? Well, for one thing, the market is booming
All of this energy storage capacity will have wide-reaching effects in terms of energy efficiency and use, especially for site operators, service providers, and others. These are just some of the reasons implementing an energy storage solution will improve these metrics:
  • Boost the quality and reliability of energy delivery by providing temporary continuity during outages. 
  • Create flexibility for the electric grid as outages become increasingly costly by preventing extended downtime and providing backup power when needed 
  • SAVE MONEY! It can significantly lower energy costs by reducing fossil fuel use and lost revenue from outages.
  • Integrate a variety of energy sources, including renewables, to further save on energy costs.
  • Inject and extract energy according to changes in load in real-time.
  • Reduce environmental impact through improved energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, and a new opportunity for renewables.

What are the challenges to implementing Energy storage?

While the opportunities remain numerous for energy storage to transform your operations, some obstacles to implementation still exist. One of the most prevalent is the dissonance between steadily dropping prices and a lasting perception of high cost. 
In addition, especially in the case of backup batteries, there is a diverse selection to choose from, and frequently each supplier even has its proprietary technology. These differing policies and processes tie into the next challenge – severely lagging regulatory guidelines. This causes technology advances in the field to outstrip the controls to ensure they are safe, secure, and effective.
Another issue is energy storage maintenance. Depending on the energy storage technology, some solutions require a great deal more upkeep and regular maintenance to remain effective solutions. This can drive up overall costs and create additional expenditures where there weren't any previously.
Lastly, how do we define energy storage? What energy assets are included, and how should we define their operations and use? This lack of clear purpose has made adopting these technologies and solutions much slower, with significant stakeholders left with serious questions about energy storage's current and future intentions.