Energy storage is exciting. There’s no other way to put it. Take the Energy Vault storage system, which has recently showcased the capabilities of their new technology. Essentially, it’s a giant concrete tower that uses gravity and kinetic energy for storing wind and solar energy.
As Tech Crunch states, “Energy storage remains one of the largest obstacles to the large-scale rollout of renewable energy technologies on utility grids.” So, this tech, as well as Tesla’s new Mega Pack, has shown the massive amounts of capital that investors are pouring into this important facet of the renewable energy sector.
Buy why has energy storage development become such a major point of interest?
Think about it this way, if engineers and scientists continue to further technology that is capable of generating more and more electricity, there need to be just as robust technology for storing that energy when it grows excessive.
More relevant and ubiquitous is the variability of renewable energy and the overcapacity problems that plague many electrical grids across the world. Take for instance Germany and their challenges with maintaining such an aggressive renewable energy platform.
Better Batteries to Reduce Overcapacity, Intermittency and Price Volatility
Germany has ambitious plans to be at least 80% renewable by 2050. But as they continue to shut down nuclear plants to make way for more renewable energy, they face overcapacity problems.
In short, because renewable energy fluctuates–the wind just doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine enough–then coal and natural gas plants are used to safeguard against any grid shutdown. But what happens when the wind and sun suddenly pick up? The answer: overcapacity of electrical generation that can hurt the grid’s infrastructure, as well as make huge spikes in wholesale electrical prices.
After all, excess energy usually means a precipitous drop in price. This is textbook energy intermittency, which of course is a challenge, but one that better batteries can help with, especially in Texas where renewable energy is such a prevalent force in our energy landscape.
Decentralized Batteries, Thermal Storage, and More
The more you look into the development of renewables, the more encouraging advancements you can find. Put enough smart and ambitious people on the task, and they will overcome climate challenges. Some new technologies which are especially promising are the following:
- Train-powered energy storage. Yes, you read that right. Excess renewable energy pushes a train along a rail that travels up a hill. As James Conca puts it, it’s very much like the Greek Myth of Sisyphus, who spends his days pushing a giant boulder up a hill and down again for eternity. At the top of the hill, the ARES train stores energy and then unleashes gravitational energy as it descends, pushing electricity out to the grid.
- Another powerful storage technique is thermal energy storage, which is actually strong enough to power a reasonably-sized city for 24 hours.
- Lastly, even though there’s many more technologies in development out there, is gravity storage. Which means the Energy Vault that was mentioned at the beginning of this article.