The electric grid is vital to our way of life. We expect our lights to come on when we flip the switch, but we don’t think about the amazing balancing act the grid must perform to accomplish this seemingly simple task. At any given moment, the electricity entering the grid (referred to as supply or generation) must be equal to the electricity exiting the grid (referred to as demand or load). As technologies like utility-scale wind power, rooftop solar PV and electric vehicles continue in popularity, the electric grid equation (i.e. supply equals demand in real-time) gets complicated. Fortunately, energy storage systems available today can be incorporated in different utility applications to act as a buffer between supply and demand to ensure the seamless delivery of the electricity powering our lives.
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When discussing the integration of renewable energy sources like wind and solar onto the grid, variability of generation is the challenge in areas with remote grids, high levels of renewable penetration, or critical loads. Furthermore, renewables can often generate power during off-peak times, or times when the demand for energy is low. Energy storage systems enable greater integration of renewables onto the electric grid by smoothing and time-shifting that renewable power. With an integrated storage solution in place, power producers can benefit from firm, dispatchable power, as well as increased revenue.
Energy storage systems can also add reliability and flexibility to the existing electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure. Energy storage located close to the source of demand can defer or eliminate the need to upgrade expensive transmission lines to meet the demand of growing load centers. An integrated storage solution also provides a number of ancillary services, improving power quality and reliability by providing substation-level back-up power, frequency regulation, and dynamic VAR compensation.
Commercial and Industrial End Users can also improve their power quality and reliability, and reduce their electricity expenses by installing an energy storage system. For the end user, an integrated storage solution can reduce peak demand and level load profiles, improve overall power quality, and act source of back-up power. In the near future, energy storage will be ready for the residential customer.
Consider the old Motorola Brick phone; a select few could only make calls with scattered mobile coverage and with one bulking piece of equipment. Now, customers have smart phones that provide modern conveniences in a pocket-sized technology. Today’s storage is the equivalent of the smart phone. With the variety of simultaneous services they can provide to a number of customers, energy storage systems are increasingly becoming a vital component in the global energy conversation.