Is Storage Necessary for Renewable Energy?
Physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist at The Rocky Mountain Institute, recently released a video in which he claims that renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs without the need for a fossil fuel or nuclear base load generation.
There’s nothing unusual about that – many people have made that claim – but he also suggests that this can be done without a lot of grid-level storage. Instead, Lovins describes a “choreography” between supply and demand, using predictive computer models to anticipate production and consumption, and intelligent routing to deliver power where it’s needed. This “energy dance”, combined with advances in energy efficiency, will allow us to meet all of our energy needs without sacrificing reliability.
There is a little storage involved: ice-storage air conditioning and air conditioning and smart changing of electric vehicles.
But where others have assumed that large storage devices will need to be added to the grid, Lovins thinks that massive storage facilities are unnecessary, and he presents compelling evidence to support his claim, including actual data from Europe and computer models from NREL.
Lovins quickly mentions “unobtrusively flexible demand” without telling what it is. When you turn on a light switch, you want the light to come on now; there’s nothing flexible about that. But when your refrigerator’s compressor needs to run, can it wait a few minutes? Certainly. The same is true for air conditioning, heating, and many other “automatic” loads. Smart grid technology can be added to appliances, allowing the grid to control these flexible loads. And smart appliances will make this feasible and completely transparent to the consumer.
There will always be a need for storage since many applications are off grid. Obviously storage is needed in order to electrify transportation. Probably the dynamic routing is the best long term solution for the grid. Still we need to invest in storage technologies. The good thing is that both storage and smart routing can be implemented together, a little at a time, and scaled up gradually.
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