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A Comprehensive Guide To Energy Storage

Energy storage systems capture and store energy for later use, which may be able to provide an invaluable solution to help balance intermittent renewables. As the world moves forward in the hopes of a more sustainable future, having energy storage like this is becoming more necessary than ever.

Below, we’ll take a look at various types of energy storage, their benefits, and their potential to revolutionise the way that we store (and use) energy.

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Renewables Cannot Adapt To Varying Electricity Demand

It is certainly appealing to have clean, reusable energy for household and business utilities when it comes to renewable energy. But why isn’t the use of these energy sources as common as it should be in a world that strives for environmental stability?

Well, as it turns out, renewable energy sources struggle to adapt to meet changing energy demands. Some of the most common barriers faced by renewable energy sources are summarised below.

Intermittency

While power plants use fossil fuels for a steady supply of energy, renewables are generally more inconsistent. These energy sources rely on weather conditions and daylight hours. This makes it hard to match the supply of energy with the demand for electricity and residential and business gas throughout the day.

Infrastructure and cost

Making the shift from traditional sources to renewable energy means making changes in infrastructure and energy grids. This shift would also need a large financial investment and time to build new facilities or integrate them with existing energy systems. This may be difficult for small businesses and too costly for their SME energy needs.

Grid stability

Renewable energy sources are often distributed geographically. For example, they can be distributed from solar panels on rooftops or wind farms in specific regions. When these sources are integrated into the centralised power grid, it can cause stability issues. This leads to the need for more sophisticated grid management solutions.

Technological development

Although renewable energy technologies have come a long way, they’re still changing and maturing. And since research and development are still ongoing to improve efficiency and reduce costs, the adaptation of these technologies will likely change as they mature.

Energy demand peaks

Certain industries and facilities like large enterprises may have a peak demand period that can be difficult to fulfil with renewables alone. In these cases, alternative solutions like a backup power supply may be necessary to keep up with large business energy demands.

Storage limitations

There have been some improvements in energy storage technologies over the years. But, they still have limitations. This is particularly true when it comes to their capacity and cost in systems like battery energy storage systems.

A More Robust National Grid

In 2023, the Great Grid Upgrade initiative began in the UK. This transformative initiative is aimed at creating a more robust and efficient national grid in England and Wales. By connecting more renewable energy sources to homes and businesses, this overhaul will play a huge role in the government’s plan to transition to clean energy.

By enabling the electricity grid to carry more clean energy, the upgrade is designed to support the nation’s commitment to reaching zero net emissions even faster.

With the ongoing reduction of the reliance on fossil fuels and a bigger push to move to clean energy generation, it’s likely that there will be a higher demand for residential and business electricity. However, the upgraded grid will be able to handle this surge in electricity consumption.

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Low carbon storage refers to the use of electricity storage technology and methods. These technologies have minimal greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately contribute to reducing carbon dioxide and other gas emissions within the energy sector.

The main purpose of low-carbon storage is to store any excess energy that is generated from renewable sources during times of low demand.

Some of the most common examples of low-carbon storage systems include:

Battery energy storage systems

Battery storage systems have advanced significantly over the years, and in recent years they have started offering more efficient, low-carbon storage systems. A good example of this is how lithium-ion batteries store energy from solar and wind energy sources. A battery energy storage system is designed to store energy when demand is low and discharge it during peak demand.

Pumped hydroelectric storage

Pumped hydro storage systems are some of the oldest and most established forms of electricity storage. These systems involve using excess energy to pump water, which stores potential energy. During peak demand, the water is released downhill and passes through turbines to generate electricity.

Compressed air energy storage (CAES)

Compressed air systems or CAES store additional energy by compressing air and keeping it in underground reservoirs. When the demand for electricity is high, the compressed air is released and expanded through turbines to create electricity.

Hydrogen energy storage

Hydrogen can be produced through electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. This hydrogen can be stored and used later in fuel cells or combustion engines to produce electricity, with only water as a byproduct.

Design Elements

Responsive, Intense, Or Long-Term Energy Storage?

The choice between responsive, long-term, or intense energy storage systems depends on the specific requirements and characteristics of the energy system and the application it will be used for.

Responsive energy storage systems are designed to provide quick responses to changes in energy demand or supply. Generally, these systems are characterised by their ability to ramp up and down almost instantaneously during fluctuations in electricity usage or generation.

Intense storage systems refer to technologies that can store a large amount of energy in a smaller system. These storage solutions can store a lot of energy and can store it for longer periods of time too. Intense storage is typically used as a backup storage system.

Long-term storage systems are designed to keep stored energy for long periods. These systems are used to close the gap between intermittent renewable energy generation and the constant demand for electrical energy.

If you’re unsure of what storage system to use or want to know which one can benefit your business, Business Energy Comparison has you covered. We’ll put you in touch with our energy brokers and consultants to give you the best advice and deals around.

Micro-Grid Energy Storage

Microgrid storage involves integrating electricity storage technology within a localised micro-grid system, which can operate either independently or in conjunction with the main power grid.

The microgrid is usually made up of distributed energy resources. They include solar panels, wind turbines, and electricity storage systems. All of these elements are interconnected to serve a specific area’s energy needs.

There are several advantages to microgrid storage. Firstly, it ensures grid stability and reliability by providing instant power support. It also optimises the integration with renewable energy sources by storing unused electricity for use when the demand for energy is higher.

Additionally, microgrid storage enables peak shaving and load management and reduces the need to rely on the main grid when it is overloaded.

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Thermal Energy Storage

Thermal energy storage (or TES) stores thermal energy in the form of different temperatures for later use. Thermal storage systems are extremely versatile and can be used in various applications.

There are three types of thermal storage. They include:

  • Sensible heat storage. Sensible heat storage involves storing energy by changing the temperature of the storage material. When the system is in the charging phase, the material is heated. The discharging phase cools it down.
  • Latent heat storage. This type of heat storage uses the energy required to change a phase-change material or PCM (from a solid to a liquid, for example) to store thermal energy.
  • Thermochemical storage. The process of thermochemical storage involves storing thermal energy through chemical reactions that absorb or release heat.

While renewable energy sources offer plenty of undeniable benefits, their widespread adoption faces several challenges in varying and adapting to energy demand changes. However, initiatives like the Great Grid Upgrade are aimed at providing a more robust national grid and accelerating the transition to clean energy.

Energy storage systems play a huge role in helping these programs. They can also be used to address some of the challenges of using renewable energy sources.Get in touch with our business energy comparison experts to find out more and secure the best business electricity and business gas deals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three types of energy storage?

The three main types of energy storage are mechanical, thermal, or battery energy storage systems.

What is the cheapest form of energy storage?

Generally, the cheapest form of energy storage is battery storage. This is because implementing these storage systems is much cheaper than implementing those for hydropower or compressed air systems.

How long can solar energy be stored?

A standard solar energy storage system, such as a battery, can typically store energy for up to five days. However, this depends on the size of the system.