The renewable energy industry has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. More wind and solar power is contributing to the electric grid than ever before. There is one drawback to renewable energy sources however, and that is their intermittent periods of production and disruption. After all, the weather does not always provide the wind or sunshine needed to produce consistent electricity from these sources. The fluctuation in natural systems that power our renewable energy sources result in some periods of low energy production, and other periods of high production that may even exceed the needs for the power grid. Energy storage systems are a rapidly developing solution to this issue. With a storage battery connected to the grid, energy could be stored and released slowly to keep power flowing without interruption. Batteries that could function at the power grid level would help to stabilize electricity pricing by ensuring a steady supply of energy and helping to meet peak demands.
Developing a battery that can store energy for the grid and release it reliably when needed has been a goal of industry engineers for quite some time. Just recently, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced major funding for the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). This research project is located in Chicago, IL at the Argonne National Laboratory, and includes partners from a variety of industries and experiences. The hope is that the partners of the JCESR will be able to break through the roadblocks and develop energy storage technology. While this is actually the 4th energy innovation center the DOE has established in the past two years, it is the only group devoted to research and development regarding energy storage and battery technology.
In a recent report commissioned by the Institute of Electric and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) titled “The Case for Energy Storage, Distributed Generation, and Microgrids,” the IEEE mentions that funding for R&D of energy storage and other grid improvements, such as distributed generation, have fallen short thus far. So, it seems the emergence of the JCESR has come at a critical time for updating electric grid infrastructure. The lack of resources allotted to developing grid-level energy storage to this point are finally being addressed. There is no denying that the JCESR will confront the challenges facing much needed improvements to the electric grid.
The IEEE predicts that wind and solar power will be the most demanded sources of generation over the next five years. Energy storage technology will also progress, according to the report, with lithium ion technology poised to lead the market for grid-scale energy storage. This is great news for wind and solar energy, as manufacturing and production will increase, while carbon emissions caused by power plants may be reduced. With continued funding for organizations like the JCESR, the hopes of strengthening the renewable energy industry, and grid reliability, are far more likely to materialize soon.
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