Energy governance group Ren21 estimates that renewable energy will account for nearly half (45%), of global electricity generation by 2040.
This is a reason to be excited. However, as renewable energy usage continues to rise, there is a challenge. In a world that expects electricity on demand, renewable energies’ dependence on weather could lead to a less reliable grid system.
Is this to say that they will not be reliable sources of renewable energy in future? It’s quite the opposite. Let’s look closer at energy storage solutions and how they can help solve the problem. This will also create more jobs for specialists within the renewables & storage sectors.
What is intermittent power generation?
Intermittent generation, in short, is an irregular supply of electricity for a given time. In the event of less favorable weather conditions, intermittent generation can cause electricity generation to be inconsistent or unreliable. Because the weather is dependent on leading renewable technologies such as solar, wind, and hydropower, they are not able to provide electricity year round.
Hydropower is 16% global power generation and is heavily dependent on water currents and precipitation. Seasons also have an impact. Wind power is dependent on wind speed, temperature, and concentration. Solar power, on the other hand, depends on the sun’s amount of energy, its time of year, and how much diffuse solar radiation it has.
These variances make these sources ‘non-dispatchable’. This means that their output cannot be turned on and off according to society’s changing electricity needs.
Why is intermittent energy a problem?
We are used to electricity being available on demand. The reliability of the existing grid system can be affected by the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources. It is difficult to integrate variable renewable energy sources into a power grid. The grid was designed to ensure that power plants produce enough energy at the right time to meet demand.
The grid’s limited storage capacity means that the balance between supply and demand must be calculated carefully. To avoid blackouts, energy generation must be consistent and predictable.
Sometimes, renewable energy sources produce excess power that cannot be handled by the grid. With wind turbines for example, if there is a low demand but the wind blows at a high speed the frequency will rise too high. If the demand is high and the wind speed low, then the frequency drops below what is required. These fluctuations can cause grid damage and have a negative effect on the grid.
How does energy storage work?
Enter: energy storage. Energy storage basically means that energy can be stored at one point in time to be used in the future. Traditional energy storage is, for example, the holding back of water behind a hydroelectric dam.
Technology advances will make energy storage more important in integrating variable energy sources into a grid and maintaining energy consistency. In turn, this will lead to more job opportunities in the field.
You can scroll through the images to see the six main types today of energy storage.