Storage Boosts the Power of Renewable Energy

how to integrate large amounts of renewable energy into the grid was the topic at the recently held Electricity Storage Association's Annual Meeting in California. At the meeting, leading companies, manufacturers, utilities and policy developers gathered under the motto "Electricity Storage: Predictable Power in a Cleantech World."

During the conference experts showed how energy storage can play a variety of roles in firming up renewables at different time scales, i.e. from moment to moment, daily, weekly and seasonally. The presentations showed how storage options are essential for expanding renewable energy sources, stabilizing the grid, ensuring a continuity of supply, increasing energy autonomy and mediating against intermittent power production.

As storage technology advances, decision makers are starting to create a more favorable policy environment for innovators. For example, the U.S. Energy Storage Technology Advancement Act of 2007 recognizes the crucial roles that storage can play.

"This bill is the first official recognition of the importance of energy storage by Congress," said Imre Gyuk, Manager of Energy Storage Systems Research with the Department of Energy. "It is only an authorization bill and thus carries no appropriated funding, but it is a wonderful platform for future requests for storage research, demonstrations and development."

The act establishes an Advisory Committee (the Energy Storage Advisory Council), and authorizes funds for a basic and an applied research program of US $50 million and $80 million, respectively, for each fiscal year from 2009 to 2014. It also provides US $100 million each year for up to four energy storage research centers; US $30 million a year for energy storage demonstration projects and vehicle energy storage demonstration; and US $5 million a year for 10 years for secondary applications of electric drive vehicles.

Reaction to the act has been positive and the storage industry is beginning to take off.

"Grid-scale storage is here now," said Ed Cazalet of MegaWatt Storage Farms. "Storage should be deployed now at the gigawatt (GW) scale...where capacity, ancillary services and energy time-shifting are clearly needed."

Storage projects can be sourced close to loads, on the grid or at the generating facility. In his presentation, Cazalet emphasized that the demand-pull from large-scale commercial deployment will encourage manufacturing investment, lower costs through volume production (economies of scale) and lead to the commercialization of advanced technologies.

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