The role of energy storage

Two factors currently play an important role in energy storage:
Firstly, the balance between energy production and consumption is crucial. Secondly, it is about finding a strategy for not being dependent on fossil fuels.

The most common renewable energies, such as wind and photovoltaics, produce electricity depending on the weather conditions and not according to the energy consumption required by the end consumer. That means, that the production of energy does not have to coincide with the volume of consumption. To avoid this loss or excess of energy, more efficient systems are needed that are capable of storing energy and feeding it into the grid when needed.

Electrical energy per se cannot be stored and must first be converted into:

  • mechanical energy, like a pumped power station
  • chemical energy, for example batteries, accumulators.

Energy storage systems (pumped storage power plants, batteries, accumulators) have different storage capacities.
Depending on the capacity level, we have the following categories:

Power storageLevelsExamples
Large scaleat the level where electricity is produced in large quantities (GW).hydraulic pump or thermal storage systems
Medium scaleat the level of network operators/ electricity grids (MW)batteries, accumulators, capacitor cells, superconductors or flywheels
Small scaleat household level (kW)Batteries, superconductors or smaller flywheels
Table 1 – Power storage levels (Own elaboration)

Within existing storage technologies, batteries are the most common storage devices. Their use is increasing both in households and by network operators.

The most common is the lithium battery. Lithium can accumulate large energy charges due to its electrochemical potential, but its production is currently associated with high costs. BloombergNEF forecasts a reduction in these costs: By 2030, they could possibly even be halved.

It is to be expected that energy storage technologies will become even more efficient, effective and affordable in the future.
New systems of energy production from renewable sources are and will continue to be crucial components in overcoming our dependence on more traditional energy sources. To this end, energy generation and energy storage systems must go hand in hand in their further development.

Thanks to Marta Hollederer.

References & Resources

  • BloombergNEF (5 Marzo 2019), “A Behind the Scenes Take on Lithium-ion Battery Prices”
  • REE – , “Almacenamiento energético”
  • Stockvault


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