The United States generates over 4 billion (4,000,000,000) megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity every year. As it stands currently, less than 0.0001% of that energy can be stored which means that the energy that is produced, must immediately be consumed. With renewable energy sources playing an ever-increasing role in the generation fleet, the generation landscape is changing and threatens to upend the status quo that keeps the grid functioning as it currently does.
Of course, this isn’t a doom and gloom scenario and renewable energy sources form a welcome addition to an increasingly diverse fleet of electricity generation sources. Energy storage’s necessity will, however, continue to grow as we incorporate these technologies into the grid.
When thinking energy storage, we mustn’t solely think of batteries. Of the energy storage capacity in the US, over 90% is available as pumped storage. One of the oldest forms of energy storage, pumped storage hydroelectricity has been around for many decades. Battery storage, too, plays an important role in energy storage, however, its applications have so-far been limited to smaller-scale systems designed for very local and direct needs, whereas pumped storage hydroelectricity is more adapt to large-scale utility generation requirements.
Lithium is quickly becoming the hottest commodity for energy storage as it is extensively used in battery technology. Development continues, and alternate battery technologies are being explored, however, lithium-ion batteries are the most popular large-scale battery storage technology being deployed in the US. With the cost of lithium coming down, it would seem that this technology is what holds the future. Smaller-scale flexible energy storage solutions can be widely deployed, allowing for utilization of the smart grid networks being developed across the country.
Energy storage is on the rise and is certainly a space to be watched.