Imagine a world that has no power shortages and where blackouts have been eliminated. If that sounds incredible, think again. Today, grid energy storage could be bringing us closer to uninterrupted power supply than ever before.
Basically, the technology works by storing energy when production is greater than consumption. Thus, when demand is more than supply, the pressure on a power grid need not be that great and the possibility of power cuts or blackouts are lowered.
While this has special relevance in the developing world, which has been handicapped without reliable electricity grids, it is also significant in the developed world. By storing energy in units at power stations, along transmission lines, substations, and near consumers, electricity can easily be restored if and when a power cut or blackout strikes. Further, the possibility of such a problem taking shape is greatly lowered given that there is always the back-up of more power coming from the grid.
Additionally, when there is an extraordinary amount of power being consumed, say for example, when a large number of consumers are using air conditioners on an exceptionally hot day, the load on a power grid is not greatly affected. In fact, whereas an ordinary system may be put under tremendous pressure at such times, the power grid’s internal back-up structure can make full use of the stored power, especially handy at times of heightened demand.
There are a number of types of grid energy storage such as pumped hydroelectric stations, compressed air energy storage (CAES), flywheels, super-capacitors, and of course cells or batteries. At present, pumped hydro-electricity is the largest form of grid energy storage and its energy efficiency can reach anywhere between 70%-75%.
For power utilities companies, specifically those using pumped hydro-electricity, the output involved in grid energy storage is between 200 megawatts and 2,000 megawatts of power on peak demand days.
The advantage of this form of energy storage over others forms including wind or solar energy is the fact that these sources are unpredictable. Grid energy storage is a constant solution and not reliant on factors such as weather conditions, environmental factors or seasonality issues.
Though it seems to be a practical solution, grid energy storage is not always cheap. In fact the set-up costs can be a huge investment for companies associated with such technology.However, what is known to be true is that in the long-run, such costs can drop with the increase in storage. Thus, grid energy storage can turn out to be more cost effective, as well as a more efficient source of power going forward. In fact, the US Department of Energy has stated that grid energy could save as much as 10% of the total consumption levels currently.