Energy Storage Secures Future for Renewables

David Fessler By David Fessler
Energy and Infrastructure Strategist

Alternative Energy

Both solar and wind power generation have been growing faster than any other energy source.

In fact, renewable energy accounted for 18% of all U.S. energy production last year – double what it was just a decade ago.

But the sun doesn’t always shine…

And the wind doesn’t always blow…

Thankfully, some forms of energy storage can be paired with solar and/or wind power generation.

Energy storage provides power during evening hours and periods of cloudy skies or stagnant air.

Here’s how it works. During periods of low demand, excess production gets stored for use at a later time. Then, during periods of high demand, the storage system provides the extra power needed. This drastically reduces the amount of peak power a utility has to generate.

Today, lithium-ion batteries are often used for energy storage. That’s because the cost of these batteries continues to drop.

But they aren’t the only storage game in town. Some new technologies just might be a better fit, depending on the industry.

Let’s look at an example.

A Cool Energy Storage Solution

The third-highest energy consumer on a commercial scale is the cold storage sector. Keeping food cold or frozen uses more than $30 billion worth of electricity every year in the U.S.

Massive compressors are needed to maintain subzero temperatures. So it’s easy to see how these units use so much power.

Surprisingly, the industry has been slow to add solar power generation. After all, many of these warehouse facilities have huge amounts of roof space – perfect for solar panels.

Most cold storage warehouses require so much energy that they can’t be powered by solar alone. But, as the saying goes, every problem is just a solution in disguise.

Viking Cold Solutions has developed an interesting technology for the cold storage industry. Its Thermal Energy Storage Systems can store 12 hours’ worth of energy.

That’s four times the discharge time of lithium-ion battery systems. By themselves, these systems can save 20% to 35% on electricity costs.

The technology uses a phase-change material, a control system and reporting software. During the day, solar panels power the refrigeration equipment.

Then at night, the refrigeration equipment shuts off. The phase-change material absorbs 85% of any heat making its way into the freezer, and the freezer stays cold.

The cycle then repeats itself. How simple is that?

The energy savings with this technology are simply amazing. Some utilities are offering storage warehouses incentives to install Thermal Energy Storage Systems paired with solar power. Customers can save up to 90% on their energy bills.

For utilities, not having to build peaking plants saves millions. And that’s money that would otherwise come out of ratepayers’ pockets.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about other new storage technologies, as well as related investments that you can get in on.

Good investing,

Dave