As Solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources become more cost-effective to produce and demand for them grows, the biggest hurdle becomes storing that energy effectively.
Typically, storing renewable energy has relied on batteries, which are unfortunately quite costly, especially when compared to the power generation costs using fuels like coal or gas.
However, some solar facilities are harnessing new ways to store energy that may result in a boom for developers of renewable energy sources. With the global solar market expected to top 69GW in 2016, and wind projected at 2,000GW by 2030 and markets shifting away from reliance on carbon-emitting fuels, renewable energy sources may prove the key to future energy development if cost effective energy storage can be achieved.
SolarReserve in Nevada uses molten salt heated to high temperatures in the heating tower to create steam that can be used to power generators up to ten hours after the sun goes down. This plant is capable of powering 75,000 Nevada homes.
In California, LightSail Energy is experimenting with compressed air by turning on an air pump whenever excess energy is produced. When energy is low, the compressed air is released to drive a generator. Some of the heat is also captured to preserve the energy.
Another company uses excess energy to cool a tank of water into ice, which can then be used to cool nearby buildings during the hottest and most energy intensive part of the day.
Making it Affordable
Whatever form energy storage for renewable energy takes, it will have to compete with more conventional energy sources for cost and reliability. With shale gas and oil prices low, only efficient automation and controls can make any energy generation operations competitive with traditional carbon-emitting energy sources. While some of this could be offset with carbon or tax credits, the rest will have to be made up through innovation and clever solutions to the energy puzzle.
That’s where solutions like InduSoft Web Studio can fill the gaps. By automating the process of energy capture and storage with robust SCADA and HMI software capable of easy telemetry and remote monitoring, it’s possible to create cost-effective solutions to harnessing the true power of wind and solar energy.