The growing role of energy storage in the evolving grid

June 29, 2018
Energy storage is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the energy sector, but what exactly does it mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean for the future of the electric grid?

wind and solar farm

Energy storage is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the energy sector, but what exactly does it mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean for the future of the electricity grid? These important questions are why Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) chose energy storage as their most recent luncheon topic that I attended.

WRISE is a national nonprofit that promotes the education, professional development, and advancement of women in the renewable energy sector. For the energy storage luncheon, the WRISE Twin Cities chapter hosted two speakers, Rao Konidena an independent consultant working for the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA) and Angela Maiko vice-chair of Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO)’s Energy Storage Task Force. These two experts shared the basics of how energy storage works, the benefits it provides, and what the future of storage could look like in the midwest.

There are a multitude of ways that energy can be stored, such as batteries in cars or tv remotes. However, the type of energy storage that is sparking conversation is on a much grander scale than a simple AA battery. As Konidena explained, throughout the day there are “peak hours” where electricity use on the grid is at its highest and demand exceeds the amount that can be supplied. To keep up with demand, peaker plants, which are typically powered by fossil fuels, are used to supply the extra electricity needed. By integrating energy storage units into the electricity grid, we can store energy specifically for these peak hours, smoothing out the energy demand curve and eliminating the need for plants that only function a fraction of the year.

The implementation of energy storage units stands to deliver benefits for consumers, the economy and clean energy businesses. By eliminating peak hours and therefore the need for peaking plants, consumers could see an overall decrease in their electricity bills.

A major barrier to implementing energy storage has been cost, however, this has drastically decreased in recent years and is projected to continue decreasing. Experts like Maiko predict that once the overall cost of storage is less than the cost of constructing peaking plants, the market will take off.

In addition, energy storage provides the opportunity for renewables to further penetrate the market. A challenge for renewable energy has been the inability to effectively supply energy during peak hours and balance supply with demand. Energy storage offers the chance to change that game.

With the implementation of storage technology, a pathway for growing a new subsector of clean energy jobs will be created. With more than 57,000 Minnesotans already employed in clean energy, we look forward to seeing the number of professionals working in this field increase as storage projects continue to be implemented.

I really enjoyed attending this luncheon and would like to thank WRISE for providing me with the opportunity to learn about a topic that will only grow in importance.

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