A major component to understanding emerging smart grids is how grid energy storage works for power companies. The electricity business is currently experiencing a fast-moving shift toward more efficient energy systems integrated with decentralized renewable energy sources. The falling costs of solar panels, along with climate change concerns, have helped fuel interest in this modern form of electricity distribution and energy storage.
Just as the EIA predicted in January 2019, non-hydro renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, have become the fastest growing segment for electricity production. Now, interest is building quickly for developing reliable storage systems that allow solar and wind to work around the clock even when there's no sunlight or wind.
The Essence of Grid Energy Storage
The use of large-scale energy storage within a power grid, more commonly called "grid energy storage", is helping smart technology and renewable energy become increasingly attractive to utilities. Surplus energy can be stored when the grid draws from sufficient power generation sources and electricity costs are low. When electricity demand and costs rise, the utility can tap into its pool of stored renewable energy to create more balance in the system.
Overall grid system performance is greatly improved with the deployment of multiple storage systems across an electricity network. It allows for better voltage control, as well as many other benefits for utilities, and their customers.
In the past, power companies have had to rely on meeting electricity demands while dealing with intermittent voltage drops. But now, with the help of smart sensors, power generation can be streamlined in real-time to meet public demand more effectively.
How Energy Storage Improves Smart Grids
As utilities shift to smart grids, a growing focus will be placed on renewable energy to help cut costs and meet public demand. Energy storage is needed at various locations within transmission and distribution systems. Since power generation involves fluctuations in energy output, energy storage plays a vital role in reducing strain on the traditional grid during peak periods of electricity demand.
Managing energy fluctuation with renewable energy storage brings many benefits to utilities, such as the following:
- Enhanced Grid Voltage Stability - Energy storage helps maintain consistent voltages in power generation with reactive power and real power for up to a few seconds. Over time, this additional energy injection helps maintain balance, lower costs, and reduce waste.
- More Reliable Grid Power - The concept of uninterrupted power supply is a major key to more reliable electricity production.
- Enhanced Power Quality - Instead of intermittent electricity, utilities can use renewable energy storage to account for voltage fluctuations. Drawing from stored energy reduces technical problems such as harmonic distortions and momentary outages.
- Integration with Renewable Energy - The proliferation of stored energy opens the door for a wider use of renewable energy. It will help make solar and wind more attractive to utilities and achieve a greater balance between power generation and consumer demand.
- Better Grid Energy Management - Energy storage supplies active and reactive support for peak shaving and load leveling. Ultimately, it leads to lower costs of power generation for the utility.
- Greater Grid Frequency Control - Electric grid frequency responses can be better maintained when energy storage is added to a grid system. Inconsistent frequencies in power generation can damage equipment and create energy losses.
- Enhanced Grid Angular Stability - Using energy storage for backup power allows for a more cohesive and stable flow of energy.
- Customer Energy Management - Stored energy can be used to accommodate unexpected customer demands during off-peak periods.
Power generation is going through a rapid evolution to encompass grid energy storage that provides immediate solutions to common problems that utilities face. Not only will storing renewable energy provide solutions for cutting energy costs, but it will also be less taxing on the environment. Essentially, electricity will become more reliable and consistent for utilities and consumers alike.