Keys to Unlock Energy Storage for Micro-grids and Utility Grids
New energy storage technologies can make electric grids better as batteries become part of the electricity supply. Huge markets for storage and self-supporting micro-grids are coming, and not because of our renewable energy needs. One of the largest U.S. power plant owners, NextEra, recently predicted that storage may be used for all new peaking power plants within a decade!
But these great advances are delayed by the absence of industry-recognized safety and performance standards. The Union of Concerned Scientists sees lessons learned and progress in many areas.
Freedom from outages, eventually from fossil fuel
Batteries on the grid can reduce outages, reduce the need for transmission construction, lower pollution from fossil fuels, and eventually permit a complete reliance on wind and solar. The potential for battery-based micro-grids to shield communities from the disruption of storm-induced total loss of electric power means the stakes for society are very high. In my daughters’ lifetime, the use of large-scale storage along with renewable energy provides a path to complete freedom from fossil fuels and their increased contribution to climate change.
Unlocking storage potential
Storage can provide grid-enhancing services that are not simple commodities and have not been standardized. To realize the potential for batteries and other smart grid technologies, the electric power industry and technology manufacturers share a need and opportunity to come together on performance standards. Right now, energy storage and battery deployments are exotic, and most installations require extended technical deliberations and debates over value. I described these challenges in a recent article. These delays will be reduced by familiarity, and agreement on battery performance metrics.