Bath County Pumped Storage Station (Credit: CHA)

Grid-Level Energy Storage And The Challenge Of Storing Energy Efficiently

Although every electrical grid begins with the production of electricity, there are times when storing this power in some form instead of using it immediately is highly convenient. Today’s battery-powered gadgets are an obvious example of such time-shifting, but energy storage plays a major role on the grid itself, too, whether in electrochemical, mechanical or in some other form.

Utility-level energy storage is essential for not only stabilizing the grid, but also to time-shift excess energy and provide a way to deal with sudden spikes in demand (peak-shaving) plus demand drops by absorbing the excess energy. The health of the grid can essentially be regarded as a function of its alternating current (AC) frequency, with strong deviations potentially leading to a collapse of the grid.

Naturally, such energy storage is not free, and the benefits of adding it to the grid have to be considered against the expense, as well as potential alternatives. With the rapid increase of highly volatile electrical generators on the grid in the form of non-dispatchable variable renewable energy, e.g. wind turbines and PV solar, there has been a push to store more excess power rather than curtailing it, in addition to using energy storage for general grid health.

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