AEP Experiments With Backyard Energy Storage

A major reason we remain dependent on traditional sources of energy is the the alternatives–solar, wind, etc.–are unpredictable and volatile. What happens when it’s cloudy? Or windy? 

As it is right now, there isn’t a technology that can store energy with ease. Ideally, we’d be able to store all the excess energy generated from wind for a still day. While we’re still far from that, American Electric Power, is starting down the road towards better energy storage for each home.

CNET: Utility American Electric Power (AEP) this year plans to place equipment in residential areas capable of storing a few hours of electricity, one of the first tests of distributed storage on the power grid.

…He said that storage units would be the size of a relatively small “backyard transformer,” each wired to provide enough electricity for four to six houses. Together, those storage units could provide back-up power to neighborhoods during outages and potentially other applications, Nourai said.

Obviously, this is different from the problem of extra energy being wasted, but if the technology can be improved (drastically, perhaps) then we’re in a better position to utilise wind and solar. The financial success of this program can spur more innovation and investment in this arena.

Because of the high cost, energy storage devices need to be used for a number of applications to generate sufficient revenue, the speakers said. For example, a large battery could provide back-up power, do peak shaving, and be used to stabilise dips in grid signal frequency.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to be cost that drives acceptance of storage on the grid,” said Gary Colello, CEO of Premium Power, which makes a zinc bromide fuel cell that provides short-term storage to utilities in the U.S. and Canada.

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