Energy Storage Drawbacks – Oct 2017

I was at a conference hosted by NRCAN recently and a past colleague came up to me and said Hello. We chatted at length about the work she is doing and as it happens, she is well versed in Energy storage research.The most popular application of this in the media has been the Tesla Powerwall.

 

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Image showing a fitting of the Tesla Powerwall (Tesla, 2017)

 

I’m in support of robustly designed renewable energy and my most recent articles have featured challenges with implementing both wind and solar energy. Questions around the challenges the energy storage sector is experiencing and how they are manifesting themselves came about. One would think challenges with using energy generated in the present through a method of storage for future use would be more simple. Out of the methods reviewed which included pumped hydro, batteries and peak shifting, the finding noted the main challenges as:

Space & Scaling

The main problem is that energy storage consumes large amounts of land space. Additionally, storage is a valid solution to short-term challenges but needs significant development for long-term deployment. Systems like Compressed Air energy storage (CAES) require large underground caverns, which pose several challenges for site selection in urban areas.

Materials Testing/Costs

This first question that arises in energy storage is whether systems should be chemical, non-chemical or mechanical! The next question is which materials are most suitable, most accessible and actually cost-effective in large-scale production. Materials tested also need to surpass safety thresholds, which can also increase production costs.

Inefficiencies

Another challenge is that of energy not being stored in proximity to where it is generated. One loses energy in transmitting long distances to storage, lose more while storing it, then lose more while transmitting it to usage points. Losing energy is costly and hinders business which has an objective to turn a profit, like any other business. When returns are lower than investments problems will arise.

Marcus