by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.
NETL has long been at the forefront of developing technology solutions to our nation’s energy challenges. Today’s challenges revolve around ensuring reliable, affordable energy for people around the world, predominately supplied by fossil fuels, while working to minimize emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to global climate change. Energy storage technologies, which contribute to grid stability, reliability and reduced environmental impacts from power generation, are a critical tool in tackling this challenge.
Renewable sources of energy offer the benefit of zero-emission power production. However, renewable sources like solar and wind are variable and only available when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining — events that don’t necessary line up with peak demand, which often occurs after sunset. Fossil-fueled power plants generate electricity in any weather and will continue to supply much of our nation’s electricity demand over the next several decades. However, these plants were built for steady, predictable demand. Technology is needed to enable reliable, secure power that can be flexibly dispatched.
Energy storage technology answers this need.
The concept of storing energy might call to mind a battery, but energy storage technologies expand far beyond batteries alone. Energy storage involves capturing energy produced at one time and storing it for use at a later time. It involves converting energy from one form into another to make it more economical or convenient to store. As variable renewable energy sources are added to the nation’s energy mix, energy storage at the generation site will be essential to a resilient and flexible electric grid.
In fossil energy applications, energy storage has a range of benefits, including improved economics, improved efficiency and environmental performance and reduced maintenance costs. Energy storage technologies can lead to a cleaner environment by enabling cleaner electricity, a smaller real-world footprint and reduced idling time. They offer a more secure energy supply by enabling reliability in a changing grid and resiliency in unplanned events, leading to reduced customer costs.
NETL’s energy storage research seeks to achieve energy asset flexibility, grid reliability, and environmental performance with the ultimate goal of extracting maximum economic value from our nation’s fossil-fueled energy system assets. You can read more about our work in this area throughout June as we feature NETL energy storage projects on our newsroom.