While energy storage is a small fraction of total power generation capacity, promising examples suggest that distributed energy storage could change the electricity system during the next decade as fundamentally as distributed renewable energy has in the last decade.
Right now, 95 percent of energy storage in the U.S. is water pumped uphill into in reservoirs, but there are at least four applications that show how energy storage can complement renewables and offer more local control of the energy system.
Where Storage and Renewables Meet
As highlighted in a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, there are four areas where electricity storage is helping expand the use of distributed renewable energy.
Energy Storage Technology and Uses
Over 95 percent of deployed energy storage is in the form of water stored in hydropower reservoirs. But new, promising technologies are being commercialized to support distributed renewable energy and meet the reliability and quality needs of the electricity system, along with many decades-old technologies. Energy storage is divided into many technologies within 4 different media.
Energy storage can serve a number of important roles on the electricity grid, much more than simply storing daytime solar electricity for nighttime use, for example.
Uses for energy storage include:
The different technologies for energy storage vary in their ability and cost-effectiveness to provide these services. The forms of potential energy provide the best bulk storage of electricity, but the other forms can be more nimble and meet needs for fast response.
How Energy Storage Can Grow
Three factors mentioned in the report suggest that energy storage is on the cusp of greater growth:
Energy storage will also change the political dynamic of local renewable energy development. Utilities that have tried erecting barriers to on-site power generation may find that cost-effective energy storage enables their customers to leave the grid. Although most will not leave, the option to defect (described in a recent Rocky Mountain Institute report) will give electricity customers unprecedented leverage and control over their energy future.
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