Could energy storage have to move up the political agenda? Over the last two years the world has seen some very extreme weather. We have had a year of rain in the UK (2012), record winds (2013) and record rainfall and winds (2014 so far), leading to floods. In Australia there has been record heatwaves, droughts and flood. The US has had droughts, extreme snowfall and cold weather and a record hurricane. In the the Philippines there the record typhoon in the Autumn. As one scientist put it this week we were expecting climate change induced extreme weather like this to kick in the 2030’s – not now. Things can only get worse. The sight of a farmhouse flooded out with PV system on its roof got me thinking.
Energy storage is traditionally talked about in terms of time shifting variable renewables production to even out troughs in renewable electricity production. This is important and currently there as I have blogged about before there is one technology that dominates completely. That is pumped storage. The problem with pumped storage are several fold. Its large (so expensive), still centrally and not locally distributed and potentially environmentally disruptive.
To make the grid more resilient one idea put forward is to break it up in a series of interlinked microgrids. These are semi independent of one another. If an area is producing more electricity than it needs it exports it from its area to a neighbouring grid. The idea assumes a very high proportion of micro and distributed generation such as small wind hydro and of course solar PV. It also does not negate the need for very large generation kit but would at times very strongly reduce the need for it. If power lines go down or floods hit or air conditioning demand rise it may be possible to isolate parts of the grid which are unaffected and keep them going. Of course it also relies on local energy storage. As we wrote in our book;
“A vast number of energy-storage systems have been mooted. Many of these are chemical and we don’t think there will be enough of the earth’s resources to make sufficient systems to meet all demand. There are however mechanical systems that exist, such as flywheels and compressed-air systems.”
Could it be that in some cases energy storage is a solution to storm related power disruption? There is such a scheme happening in France but details are sparse.