The truth about renewable energy storage

Posted in: Energy

Posted on: 28.01.2014

Renewable energy often comes under fire because it is deemed 'intermittent', 'unreliable' or even 'inefficient'. But the truth is, the main problem facing renewables is that we currently don't have the resources to store it on a large scale, when not being generated. 


Hang on, why do you need to store it? Can’t we just use the energy straight away?

It’s not that simple sadly. The National Grid, which is responsible for managing the UK’s electricity, has to match supply with demand, otherwise the power will go out. This involves an intricate system of ‘balancing’ where generators try to produce just the right amount of electricity for any given period. 



If there’s too much from one source, i.e. wind, then another, i.e. gas, will have to be turned down or even off - and this is expensive. We need storage for wind and solar energy so that we can benefit from clean, green sources while making sure the grid remains balanced.


If it’s so important why hasn’t this technology been developed before?

Don’t get me wrong, large-scale battery storage is possible. But the designs we’ve seen up to now have been difficult to maintain or use chemicals that are expensive and not environmentally friendly, making it uneconomical. That’s why there was such excitement in the science world a few weeks ago when Harvard announced that it’s developing a battery which could offer a real breakthrough.


Sounds interesting. But can it really work? Can we ever truly rely on renewables to meet Britain’s energy demand?

Yes. Good Energy’s vision is for a world powered by renewables and we’ve done the research to show how it can happen. But affordable, reliable energy storage is vital to achieving this. Research like the work in progress at Harvard and projects such as Aquion and Ambri, which use abundant, non-toxic, inexpensive materials and manufacturing techniques, are helping pave the way to a viable solution. We need a mixture of storage technologies that account for the scale, location and type of each generator, as each has its own needs and uses.


You might convince me yet. Is Good Energy involved in energy storage innovation?

We are. Albeit on a smaller scale. We’ve partnered with Moixa Technology, who have been awarded funding by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to develop an innovative trial project involving energy efficiency and battery storage in the home. Their Maslow system uses a battery that charges during off-peak hours when energy prices are lower, or directly from on-site renewables like solar PV. Customers then connect it to anything that can run off just Direct Current (DC) power such as lighting and electronic appliances, e.g. computers and mobile phone chargers. They can therefore benefit from cheap electricity, avoiding more expensive times of day.

We’ll have more information about this over the coming months inlcluding details of our trial with customers. 

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