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The State of Storage

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Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Energy and Technology Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

Karen Marcus has 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked with well-known companies, providing direction, research, writing, and...

  • Member since 2017
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  • Nov 17, 2021

The newly adopted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act lays the groundwork for financial investments in many types of infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges, public transit, passenger and freight rail, electric vehicles (EVs), internet access, airports, and water and wastewater. It also incorporates provisions to modernize the electric grid, including the development of storage demonstration projects, storage manufacturing, and related projects that include storage elements. But what is the state of storage in the U.S. now, and how is it expected to change in the foreseeable future?

Storage Basics

Energy storage systems convert electrical energy into a form in which it can be stored, then convert it back when it is needed. It is important as the world moves to the use of more renewable energy sources because these sources are intermittent. For example, solar energy is only available when the sun is shining. Unless it is stored, its use is limited to that time. Energy storage can be deployed on a very small scale, such as at a residence, a very large scale, such as grid-scale installments, or anywhere in between. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), currently 23 GW of energy storage capacity is available in the U.S.

Types of Storage

The following types of storage are currently in use:

  • Lithium-ion batteries. This type of battery was initially used for small electronics, such as computers and phones. Larger cells have been developed for use in EVs and in grid-scale energy-storage deployments. Storage capacity for this type of battery is only a few hours.
  • Thermal storage. To include energy storage in the wider initiative to move toward renewable energy sources, operators must be able to store energy for longer periods of time. Thermal storage is an emerging technology, involving the storage of energy as liquid air, that can provide a longer-duration solution.
  • Mechanical storage. Mechanical storage systems use kinetic forces to store energy. One example is flywheel storage, which stores rotational energy. Like other types of storage, a flywheel can capture intermittent energy sources and deliver it back when needed.
  • Pumped hydroelectric. Pumped hydroelectricity energy storage involves storing energy in the form of water pumped from a lower elevation to a higher one when electricity is less expensive, then allowed to fall during higher-cost periods.

Next Storage Steps

Declining costs and longer storage times will enable storage technology to become more widespread in the coming months and years. The Energy Storage Association has projected “100 GW of new energy storage systems in the U.S. by 2030,” including “batteries, thermal, mechanical and pumped storage hydro.” The organization states that this expansion will enable “clean energy resource expansion while maintaining the reliability, resilience, and affordability of U.S. electricity supply.”

Looking ahead even further, NREL predicts that grid-scale U.S. storage capacity could grow to as much as 680 GW by 2050, noting that “storage adds the most value to the grid and deployment increases when the power system allows storage to simultaneously provide multiple grid services and when there is greater solar photovoltaic (PV) penetration.”

Given the benefits of energy storage — including money savings, improved reliability and resilience, and reduced environmental impacts — the inclusion of projects that will promote it in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are well worth the funds that will be spent.

What are your thoughts about the current and future state of energy storage? Please share in the comments.


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