The depletion of fossil fuels at an alarming rate has caused their price to spike. Along with the initiative to decrease carbon emissions and increased research on alternative energy sources like renewable energy, energy storage is becoming increasingly important.
In its basic form, energy storage is anything that can store energy to use later. Energy storage systems do just that. The most common type and the one which is on most people’s minds are chemical batteries. However, there are other types, including heat-based, gravitational, and mechanical systems.
Energy storage ranges from microelectronics to grid energy storage systems for entire countries. With the increased importance of electricity in our lives, energy storage is only bound to become so important. Almost all of our technologies now and in the future will require electricity in one type or another, like electric vehicles, home appliances, and mobile devices.
Types of Energy Storage
There are many different energy storage systems in varying shapes and sizes. Some may be old, and some may be new. Some are artificial, while others are natural. Some types include:
- Pumped hydroelectric storage.
The most common types are pumped hydroelectric storage and lithium-ion batteries.
Energy Storage: Then & Now
In the older days, fossil fuels were used as a natural energy source for power grids and all types of work requiring energy. Even now, most of the world relies on fossil fuels for energy production. However, now we also have pollution-free renewables like solar and wind.
Plus, fossil fuels are depleting and will finish one day, while renewables are inexhaustible energy sources. The problem is that the sun isn’t there at night and the wind doesn’t always blow. In that case, you must use lithium-ion batteries to store energy for later use.
Electrochemical storage is the most used energy storage type, which you see as lithium-ion batteries today. Some kinds are rechargeable batteries that can be used more than one time. Lithium-ion batteries use lithium ions to store and discharge electricity.
In this process, lithium ions move from the anode (negative terminal) to the cathode (positive terminal). This releases an electrical charge at the cathode and free electrons at the anode. The opposite process will take place for charging, i.e., lithium ions will move from the cathode to the anode.
Pumped Hydroelectric Storage
Electricity generation from water movement is used a lot in dams worldwide. However, electricity can also be stored using water. This type of energy is called pumped hydroelectric storage and uses the kinetic energy of water. In this system, there are two reservoirs of water at different elevations.
The upper reservoir stores the water. When there is a need for water, the water from the upper reservoir is released and goes down to the lower reservoir. During its journey, the kinetic energy of the falling water is used to power the turbine that produces electricity. So, to store energy, you just need to pump that water back into the upper reservoir. To use that energy, the water must fall into the lower reservoir.
Energy storage systems are so deeply ingrained in our lives that we can’t live without them. This can be in the shape of:
With a shift from diesel and gas vehicles to electric vehicles, we see a heavy reliance on large lithium-ion batteries instead of internal combustion engines.
Many energy storage systems support grids that provide energy when demand rises. This ensures a constant electricity supply in the case of high demand.
Lithium-ion batteries, a form of electrochemical storage, power most appliances and devices. These devices range from tools to consumer electronics, laptops, and mobile phones.
Renewable Energy Sources
Renewables are an effective way to generate energy while protecting our planet from pollution emitted by fossil fuels. Transitioning to renewables can help our planet significantly. However, solar and wind cannot generate constant energy. This is why energy storage is needed to store energy when these sources generate the most energy and use that stored energy when these energy sources are unavailable.
With energy storage, energy independence is possible. People looking to go off-grid or communities with unreliable grid access can use energy storage systems effectively. Solar power helps since solar panels are paired with solar batteries.