Although the oil economy may currently be shaking the stock markets, investors remain upbeat on wind, solar and clean energy. Ongoing research in the US shows that solar energy and battery storage systems are now perhaps more viable than natural gas plants, due to a decline in costs. Interest has also increased in Australia, as a result of the huge battery system created by Tesla. The development of their lithium-ion storage battery has proved to be a winner, with the production steaming ahead, its operations on going as planned, and it’s even influencing regional prices.
There are several different types of storage, but right now, the two that are being discussed most frequently, are pumped storage hydropower and batteries. Although these two operations are very different, there are numerous limitations implicated when we compare a new and developing technology, with one that is already well established.
Energy storage as battery systems
Providing grid support, greater energy security, and able to be installed in remote and inaccessible locations where hydro power is less feasible, battery invertor operations are still lagging behind on some fronts. They do have the capability to provide fast response times, but as yet, their ability to deliver the whole range of secondary services required to support the grid has yet to be demonstrated.
Pumped Hydro Power
The technology related to this well-established energy production provides critical subsidiary services to the grid, providing adequate fault level support, voltage and frequency support and the provision of inertia. The downside of using Pumped Hydro Power is the length of time it takes to construct the development, including social and environmental assessments, arranging finances and optimising the design. Initial developments could take two or more years, with construction to final completion a further two or three years more.
So what for the future?
While batteries are obviously here to stay and will play a substantial role in power systems, they have yet to validate their abilities to support the grid with a full range of additional services. Pumped Hydro however, remains a reliable technology, proven and with landmark status and quite adequately meeting the requirements of the grid.
What Australians can be sure of, is that both technologies will continue to play an important part in the expansion and development of a network fuelled by renewable energies.