We need a secure, reliable electricity supply 24 hours a day. We also need to make more use of renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind, to reduce our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil and gas. But, it’s not so easy to just switch over to using solar and wind for all our energy needs. The clouds pass the sun and the wind gusts fast and slow. This means that solar power and wind power are not always available when needed.
The solution to this problem lies in energy storage. By storing the energy generated from solar and wind power in reliable, powerful batteries, we can have a power supply that is available 24/7: – without costing the Earth.
Energy Storage for the Electricity Grid
The variability of solar and wind power makes it hard for electricity providers to integrate them into the electricity grid. Grids need to be reliable and stable, and continuously balance the supply and demand of electricity.
Installing banks of energy storage batteries into electricity grids means that the electricity provider can easily add in wind and solar energy. The batteries store the renewable energy, and when it’s needed, they can quickly release the energy into the grid. This makes the power supply smoother and more predictable.
The energy stored in the batteries can also be used in times of peak demand, when more electricity is required. This means less chance of the grid becoming overloaded and disrupting the power supply.
Energy Storage off the Grid
For people living in areas that cannot access electricity grids, or for those who would prefer to be self-sufficient, battery energy storage is the best way to go. They can be easily connected to freestanding solar panels or small wind turbines to provide a reliable electricity supply. They can also be used with diesel generators.
Energy Storage for Rooftop Solar Panels
Rooftop solar panels are becoming popular in towns and cities, but changes to tariffs have meant that solar panels now make less money for the owners. The electricity generated is fed into the grid for very little return. If a home owner installs their own energy storage, they will be able to use more of the power generated by their rooftop panels, and save more money on power bills.
Energy Storage for Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
Energy storage can also help reduce our reliance on petrol-driven cars. Hybrid electric vehicles combine a small petrol engine with battery-driven electric motor, massively reducing the amount of fuel required for day-to-day driving. Some HEVs also use regenerative braking, in which the electric motor also works as a generator. When braking, some of the wheels’ kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy and stored in the battery. This energy is then available to use when the car accelerates again.
Energy Storage for Trains
Electric trains can use energy storage batteries to reduce the amount of electricity they take from the grid. This makes the trains more energy efficient, and also saves money by cutting peak power demand from the network. Trains can also use regenerative braking to recharge the batteries, in much the same way as HEVs.