Alternative Fuels, Research

Energy Storage Opportunity Results from SERC

Last summer, ten projects were initiated through funding from the State Energy Research Center (SERC) at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), and a project focused on energy production and supply processes in North Dakota has recently been completed. 

Energy production and supply processes are constantly changing, challenging utilities to respond to fluctuating grid demands. As electrical production and distribution evolve, the associated technology must adapt to maintain grid stability. Energy storage (ES) systems have the potential to alleviate the need to rapidly adjust for fluctuating energy generation resources, such as wind and solar, and electrical demand, reducing the overall strain on the electrical grid and the strain on fossil-based energy systems. 

A large portion of North Dakota’s coal-fired power plants and other utilities face challenges responding to rapid changes in grid supply and demand because of the intermittent operation of renewable energy resources. The inclusion of ES systems could alleviate the need to frequently increase the output of coal-fired systems when adjusting for variable demand and supply fluctuation, taking up excess energy and storing it for times of high demand. 

“Energy storage is growing as a topic of discussion and research, both in the public and private sectors, and it’s really exciting that we were afforded the opportunity to begin researching energy storage as part of SERC.”

John Brunner, project Principal Investor

The EERC evaluated twenty different ES technologies to compare the advantages and disadvantages they provide and ascertain their viability. The technologies stem from concepts storing multiple forms of energy, including mechanical, chemical, electrochemical, and more. Analysis revealed hydrogen energy storage and two forms of thermal energy storage to be the most reliable and efficient ways to store energy for semi-long-term needs. 

Follow-up work in ES will include further analysis and development of technology models and a greater look into the system characteristics of integrating ES technologies at both power plant and electrical grid scale. National efforts are currently focused on the utilization of ES with fossil-based energy generation assets, such as coal or natural gas power plants. However, as renewables such as wind and solar energy become a greater part of the electrical grid, ES will become a vital part of those systems to regulate their intermittent nature of operation.

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