People are used to sitting at home and being able to plug their laptops into the socket and charge it immediately, but rarely do they consider the amount of work needed to go into maintaining a constant power supply. For example, the British public cause a surge in electrical demand whenever a popular television show ends and everyone collectively agrees it is time for a cup of tea.
Renewable Energy is an essential way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, an atmosphere that has an extremely fragile balance for sustaining life. However, renewable energy still has some complications that must be overcome and understood. Therefore, it is vital that professionals keep up to date with the latest trends and developments in the sector. Currently, electrical generation is subject to external environmental factors. Solar panels are only beneficial when the sun is shining and electricity production will cease when the sun goes down. Wind turbines cannot spin if there’s no wind to push them.
It’s clear that renewable energy must be a vital part of future global energy strategies, so, solutions must be found. One such solution is large scale energy storage. Storing the energy generated for use at a later date helps to stabilise the perpetual supply and demand tug of war.
Energy storage isn’t just valuable during unpredictable weather, it’s also superb at being rapidly deployed in emergencies. Fossil Fuels are very slow at building up to maximum output.
What type of energy storage is possible?
Heat from the sun is concentrated onto a receiving tank and captured to use at a later date. The heat produced is transferred into molten salt which is extremely efficient at retaining its temperature. Through a series of processes, steam is produced which rotates a turbine and generates electricity.
Compressed air is stored for use during off-peak times to help (along with natural gas) standard combustion turbines generate electricity to the required level of demand.
Hydroelectric power plants have two reservoirs that hold vast amounts of water, one raised above the other which takes advantage of gravitational potential energy.
Water from the lower reservoir is pumped up to the upper reservoir, this is how the energy is stored during times of excess supply. As demand increases, water is released from the upper reservoir and gravity pulls it downhill through turbines which spin to generate electricity.
Chemical reactions take place between two electrodes within the battery and the transfer of electricity is carried through an electrolyte. The chemicals within the battery undergo a reaction which converts them into secondary substances.
Ions are formed and electrons migrate between the electrodes when the circuit is completed.
There is huge momentum in the energy storage sector for securing renewable energy as the main source of generation along with the adoption of electric vehicles, not just for the wealthy but for the general public too. This has led to a large increase in research.
The US Department of Energy has a division within it (named ARPA-E) that has been setup to distribute a fund of $30 million dedicated to improving energy storage technology. Unlike most governmental departments across the globe, ARPA-E has received universally positive comments. Their goal is to find cutting-edge energy storage projects and help them transition from promising research to commercialisation, typically the toughest part in any scientific business model.
The need for this technology is apparent and once major breakthroughs occur, there will be a huge leap in renewable energy capabilities. If you would like to be a part of the energy sector industry or to develop an in-depth understanding then please submit one of the forms below for information on the European Energy Centre’s upcoming Energy Storage Courses.
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