Many of the renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind energy, flow and ebb depending on the prevailing weather conditions. If renewable energy is to become the dominant source of global energy, reliable and cost-effective solutions on a utility scale have to be developed and deployed so that excess energy can be stored in order to be used when the natural supply is low, such as at night when solar panels cannot collect energy from the sun. Here are four technologies that hold the greatest promise for fixing the energy storage challenge.
The basic thinking behind this option is that water can be pumped uphill during the hours when there is limited demand for hydroelectric power. This water can then be released downhill to turn turbines, which can then supply hydroelectricity during peak demand.
The International Energy Agency estimates that more than one-half of all the energy stored in Europe by the year 2025 will be pumped hydro. Notable countries that are ramping up to use pumped hydro include Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.
Stored thermal energy
This is typically utilized in buildings as well as for industrial processes. This method entails storing excess energy or heat for use to heat or cool buildings as well as to generate electric power. Solid materials, such as rocks or sand, or liquids, such as water, are used to store thermal energy; these materials eventually release the energy for use.
It is expected that the worldwide market for this form of energy storage is likely to grow threefold from the current 234GWh to at least 800GWh by 2030.
Stored mechanical energy
This type of energy storage leverages gravity or even motion to store electrical energy. For example, rotational energy can be stored by a flywheel, and that energy will later be released to get electrical energy when the need arises.
Compressed air storage systems are other examples of mechanical ways to store energy for use when peak demand is observed.
Battery systems for utility-scale energy storage are yet another option. At the moment, Li-ion battery systems are already in use in California and other jurisdictions, while large battery-system projects are planned in Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia, among others.
Other battery chemistries, such as vanadium flow batteries, are also being developed and tested. StorEn Technologies Inc. is a notable firm that looks set to be a major player in this type of battery chemistry, and other competitors are also jostling for pole position in this space.
At the end of it all, no single energy storage system will be ideal for every application, so there is room for all different storage technologies to play their parts in bringing renewable energy to dominance around the globe.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to StorEn Technologies Inc. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/StorEn
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