Speaking of Storing Electricity…

battery_storageIn the previous post, I quoted Dominion Resources CEO Thomas F. Farrell II as alluding to the impracticality of storing electricity on a large scale. He is indubitably right about the high cost of storage today, but scientists and entrepreneurs are looking for ways to drive the costs down.

Battery storage of electricity is no more than a niche business at present. In our part of the country, it is used mainly to help PJM Interconnection, which maintains wholesale electricity markets, make tiny, fine-tuned adjustments to equalize the supply and demand of electricity on the grid. But some say that advances in battery technology will make it economical one day to store large amounts of surplus electricity generated by wind and solar power during periods of peak production for use during other times of the day.

Given the strategic importance of power storage, it is interesting to note the submission of HB 452 by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, to create a Virginia Energy Storage Consortium. Here is a summary of the bill:

Establishes the Virginia Energy Storage Consortium as a political subdivision of the Commonwealth for the purpose of positioning the Commonwealth as a leader in research, development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of energy storage technology. The powers of the Consortium include (i) promoting collaborative efforts among Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education in research, development, and commercialization efforts related to energy storage; (ii) monitoring relevant developments nationally and globally; and (iii) identifying and working with the Commonwealth’s industries and nonprofit partners. Staff support shall be provided by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. The measure expires on July 1, 2021.

— JAB

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4 responses to “Speaking of Storing Electricity…

  1. I have done much engineering work in this area. There are many companies that continue to search for more cost-effective storage technologies. Except perhaps for basic research in physics and chemistry, the government cannot add much to the technology. There is certainly no need for the government in engineering or implementation of storage technologies.

  2. Cost effective flow batteries have been ‘5 years out’ for decades now, but there is reason to believe that they may actually be close today (these developments are mostly on the chemistry side of ‘physics and chemistry’ mentioned by Fred Costello above.

    It seems like an inevitability, but of course it’s still anybody’s guess which technology will win out, when, and at what cost. Too soon for policy changes? Maybe. Too soon to consider how it will impact the landscape? I don’t think so.

  3. That 5 year sunset provision suggests this is mainly for show, but we could hope there is more to it. One major immediate beneficiary of better batteries will be those data storage centers in NoVa, but in the long run it’s the potential for dispersed batteries across the grid, installed at individual homeowner locations for nighttime use of solar power and for storm backup power, that could really change how the grid operates. One simple example: this would remove the single biggest obstacle to higher percentages of distributed renewables generation on the grid. But, like Fred, I don’t think we are that close to a battery technology breakthrough. Certainly just 5 more years won’t do it.

  4. such battery technology is the holy grail – and there are certain immutable aspects of science and physics that render such batteries to being on the margins… for specialized things…

    the best chance is “battery-like” technologies.. perhaps like making hydrogen from some kinds of fuels when they are available – and then use the hydrogen later as the generating source.

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