In August, Dominion Energy announced the start of four energy storage pilot projects in Virginia. These will be the largest of their kind in Virginia, totaling 16 megawatts of energy.
This is part of Dominion’s commitment to having projects under construction or operational that produce 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2022.
Why is this significant? The key to transitioning to renewable energy is storing energy that has already been generated. Since the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind is not constantly blowing, the success of solar and wind energy comes down to how efficiently we can store the energy for later use.
In one hour, enough solar energy reaches the Earth to power human activity for over a year. However, this energy is diffuse and sporadic. Investment in technology to harness this immense energy potential is essential to the renewables industry.
For a long time, it was not feasible to store solar and wind energy on a large scale. Fortunately, leaders in the industry have been working on this challenge. Lithium-ion batteries have become a popular and efficient method of energy storage.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), lithium-ion batteries account for 80 percent of large-scale energy storage in the U.S.
Not only are there more energy storage facilities using lithium-ion batteries, but the costs have gone down. The price of electricity from these batteries has decreased by 76 percent since 2012, an analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in March.
While lithium-ion batteries have recently experienced success, they may not be the best choice for longer spans of time. Other high-tech options are being explored, including flow batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
Unlike lithium-ion batteries that store energy in solid electrodes, flow batteries store energy in electrolyte liquids that flow. Hydrogen fuel cells are starting to be used in cars instead of internal combustion engines. These may be better long-term alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, and many countries such as South Korea and China are massively investing in energy storage research.
There are smaller efforts coming from the U.S. government, namely from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). Some of the most notable changes are happening with state-level projects, such as the projects Dominion announced here in Virginia.
As we continue to see long-term energy storage projects being established as affordable and reliable alternatives to carbon-based fuel, the future of the renewables industry looks bright.