A cornerstone of energy transition is the replacement of fossil-based energy sources with renewables. At the same time, the electrification of society including transportation and industry, means that the consumption pattern of electricity is changing. The challenge stems from the fact that much of the renewable energy production is intermittent, it is unplannable and thus, the production does not always meet the consumption. This has technical and financial implications – the electricity grid is not adapted to intermittency and electricity prices become more volatile. With this in mind we will provide a few thoughts on how storage is a true enabler of energy transition.
An increasing need for storage
Currently, only 3% of all generated electricity is stored, and this, according to Bloomberg, is going to triple by 2040. Accordingly, investments in energy storage will increase to 620 billion USD during the same period. Furthermore, of all storage methods, pumped hydro already accounts for 95% of the storage capacity. Replacing fossil-fuel with renewables such as wind and solar energy presents a great challenge. There is an increasing need for energy storage reducing the pressure on the electricity grids, matching production with consumption, and keeping renewable investments profitable by exploiting the delta of the electricity prices.
Different types of storage
Different storage technologies solve different issues of the energy transition. To start with, it is important to understand the difference between installed power and stored energy. Installed power can be referred to as the instant electrical force, and stored energy as endurance. Chemical batteries typically respond rapidly to immediate needs for electricity but are fairly limited in terms of how long without recharge they can operate. Pumped hydro storage, on the other hand, can provide a large amount of power for a long period of time and is a great resource to couple with large scale wind production. There are also differences in the cost, efficiency, lifecycle and environmental impact of different solutions, which we will describe in a later article.
Large scale storage is here to stay
Underground pumped hydroelectric storage technology is a modern modification of the currently used surface pumped hydro technology. Modern pumped hydro technology can shift in seconds between pumping and generating. It minimizes environmental impact as it is a closed-loop system not affecting natural ecosystems and waterway. Underground Pumped Hydro storage using mines has more to it – requiring less investment as it is used in existing premises, and it utilizes grid connections and other infrastructure needed for the operation. Pumped Hydro Storage in underground mines is the best solution to meet the needs of modern large-scale storage. Read more about this in our next article about Pumped Hydro Storage in a modern world