Electricity storage is in vogue. We are on the brink of an energy storage boom and it is being predicted by the likes of Tesla, large electricity suppliers and, recently, my grandmother. However, the current hoopla notwithstanding, is not actually mankind’s first foray into electricity storage. We are essentially standing on the cusp of the second storage epoch.
To explain what I mean, let’s back up a few decades. The beginning of the age of nuclear power was the late ‘50s. In 1960 less than 1 Gigawatt of electricity in total was generated by nuclear power plants. In the late 1980s, that figure had exploded to over 300 Gigawatts of electricity, constantly being pumped out of nuclear plants.
Now, here’s the thing about nuclear power plants. Once you get them started, they don’t really have a dimmer switch. You can’t run them at half or a quarter of their capacity. They either run at full tilt, producing electricity at their maximum volume, or they don’t run at all. It’s a case of all or nothing. In other words, once they are operating they supply a fixed quantity of electricity.
On the other side of the equation, households consume electricity erratically. We draw power unevenly. While some of us are turning on our toasters, others have them turned off. We fire-up our air conditioners at different times, and we vacuum at all hours of the day and night.
So, when we try to match power supplied by consistent nuclear plants on the one hand with the variable demand of consumers on the other hand, you need some mechanism that sits in the middle to allow you to store the massive amounts of energy being supplied for when they will inconsistently be required by our households and businesses. If you don’t do this, then a great deal of the power being generated is simply lost.
Enter energy storage. That’s why at the same time that we were building nuclear power plants, we also built 140 Gigawatts of pumped hydro storage. Pumped hydro systems literally use excess electricity to pump water up a hill when a power plant is producing surplus energy that no-one needs, and then allowing the water to flow downhill and drive a turbine that generates extra electricity when consumers are using a lot of electricity.
So, the challenge of dealing with variable demand and fixed supply was the catalyst to gigawatts of energy storage capacity.
Today, there is a huge and growing number of businesses and home owners who want to save money, depend less on the electricity grid, and play their part in tackling climate change. To achieve this, they have installed heaps of renewable energy. In this brave new world of renewable energy, the unsteadiness is not only on the demand side (as it was over the last hundred odd years) but now there is also tremendous unevenness in the amount of electricity that is being generated. Think of solar panels that work hard when there is a lot of sun, and stop working when there is a cloud in the sky, or when the sun sets. Think of windmills that rotate at varying speeds.
So, with the addition of variable supply to the variable demand uncertainty, the need for energy storage has increased exponentially.
Smart companies like Tesla, and my company, Ampetus Energy realize that the falling cost of solar coupled with progress in battery storage technology will transform the century old, centralised electricity grid. Households will have a renewed incentive to install solar. They will store the electricity they generate during the day and use it in the evening when electricity costs are high.
This is an idea whose time has come. GTM Research predicts home battery storage will be a $1 billion dollar industry by 2018. You can reap the benefits of this wonderful trend today. Contact us at Ampetus Energy for your free, no-obligation discussion about how you can take advantage of the latest energy storage technology.