Energy storage: the key to enabling renewable energy

As energy demand and the drive to reduce global emissions increases, many countries are making a move to more renewable resources, like wind and solar power. However, there are a number of questions about the dependability of these alternatives.

Today, we can’t afford any downtime.

Renewable power sources, such as solar and wind, are inherently intermittent. Power generation is dependent on weather conditions and other factors beyond our control. The sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing. Depending on the region, sometimes even milliseconds based power disruptions can have a tangible impact.

What’s going on behind the scenes? To compensate, utilities may increase their peak power reserves. While it sounds simple enough, this can be a costly process. Right now, grid operators are seeking more economically viable solutions. Energy storage systems based on technologies such as batteries or ultracapacitors become increasingly attractive as a flexible, cost-effective means to stabilize power output at the generation, transmission, and distribution grid.

Ultracapacitors address a number of issues renewable energy presents. For one, solar intermittencies tend to be short-lived. Utilities can use ultracapacitors to effectively smooth out the dips in power generation with only seconds worth of storage. The California Energy Commission, for example, installed an ultracapacitor system at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to demonstrate solar power smoothing. With this system, power quality was improved 75 percent.

Across the pond, Ireland is also investing in energy storage options to help achieve its renewable energy goals by 2020. In Dublin, the Tallaght Smart Grid Testbed is deploying ultracapacitors to perform fast functions, such as frequency response.

The push toward renewable energy sources isn’t going anywhere. The industry needs a long-lasting energy storage option that will help to keep the lights on. 

This post was originally published by Maxwell Technologies and was republished with permission. 

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Dr. Kimberly McGrath is global director of business development for Maxwell Technologies and has spent her career in the field of materials science and energy storage development and commercialization including ultracapacitor, battery, and fuel cell technology. Early in her career, Kim’s focus was on reduction in the size and weight of portable power sources utilized in military applications. Currently, she is focused on growing Maxwell’s energy storage business to enable increased solar and wind energy generation on grids and microgrids as traditional fossil and nuclear generation is decommissioned. She received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Southern California and an MBA from The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.

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Dr. Kimberly McGrath is global director of business development for Maxwell Technologies and has spent her career in the field of materials science and energy storage development and commercialization including ultracapacitor, battery, and fuel cell technology. Early in her career, Kim’s focus was on reduction in the size and weight of portable power sources utilized in military applications. Currently, she is focused on growing Maxwell’s energy storage business to enable increased solar and wind energy generation on grids and microgrids as traditional fossil and nuclear generation is decommissioned. She received her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Southern California and an MBA from The Paul Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.

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