Distributed energy storage

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Sodium sulphur grid-attached batteries. Credit: American Electric Power
Sodium sulphur grid-attached batteries. Credit: American Electric Power
A flywheel that delivers 1 megawatt of electricity but only for 15 minutes. Credit: Beacon Power
A flywheel that delivers 1 megawatt of electricity but only for 15 minutes. Credit: Beacon Power

Distributed energy storage offers potential to make renewable energy such as wind and solar power more effective and more economic.

The concept is to store energy from renewable sources during peak energy production close to where it is produced, so that it can be used during lower energy production periods. For example, solar panels can generate surplus energy during sunny days which can be stored then released during the night. Similarly, surplus energy from wind farms produced on windy days can be stored for later use.

Storing energy close to where it it produced reduces energy losses incurred when power is transmitted over long distances. A power grid with distributed wide-scale energy storage can also be more resilient - if some supply to the grid ceases then other storages can make up the shortfall. As an analogy, the electricity grid could operate with the equivalent of a giant computer hard drive which stores data. However, in the short term, grid storage will look more like a computers cache which is able to serve up small bursts of power to keep things going.[1]

Technology optimists say that wide-scale energy storage could change the nature of the power transmission grid and make wind and solar power more compelling economically. However, rapid deployment of distributed energy storage storage devices is held back by concerns over technology risk and financial complexity. Unfortunately to date, much government funding is allocated to research and development into risky efforts to reduce emissions for fossil fuels.


Forms of distributed energy storage

Forms of distributed energy storage include:

  • Pumped water
  • Batteries
  • Compressed air
  • Thermal
  • Flywheel
  • Superconducting magnetic energy
  • Hydrogen

Micro grid energy storage demonstration

This project has been established to demonstrate the use of ultracapacitor energy storage module in support of a selection of distributed energy resources that could potentially be configured as an electric microgrid.

To support this project, Palmdale Water District (Palmdale) in California has installed a variety of new distributed energy resources to supply facility power in an environmentally friendly way. These resources include a

  • 950 kilowatt wind turbine
  • 200 kilowatt natural gas generator
  • 250 kilowatt water turbine generator.

It is expected that with these new distributed generation sources, the facility will be able to supply the majority of its electric power needs for the near future.[2]

External links


  1. Energy storage coming to a power grid near you, Green Tech - CNET News.com, June 27, 2008
  2. Micro Grid Energy Storage Demonstration
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