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Batteries: Where aren’t they?

06082015-energy-storageWe’ve been exploring the area of thought leadership in my recent posts, “Just what is a thought leader?” and “Do you really want to be a thought leader?”. Now let’s talk about some thought leadership in action.

Energy storage is becoming a major element of the electric generation design discussion, specifically related to the increased presence of renewable or distributed generation. Another significant discussion point related to energy storage is disaster response and emergency restoration for the power grid.

Distributed generation will transform the electric grid into a bi-directional energy delivery power grid integrated with technology to manage the broad range of requirements. Guess what will also be integrated into the power grid elements? You guessed it: Batteries ARE included.

06082015-iStock_000016802236Requirements for rapid change are not slowing down. If anything, they’re accelerating. This is having a direct impact on the equipment and materials required to support the critical infrastructure industry, as well as the engineering and construction resources. When it comes to the expertise required to design, integrate and deploy new systems and upgrades, seasoned critical infrastructure firms are in high demand.

Evolution of energy storage  
Not too long ago, energy storage was very limited due to the size, cost, life expectancy and maintenance requirements of batteries. What you had were batteries of all shapes and sizes to meet a broad range of applications. There were portable two-way radio batteries you could use to jump-start a car (twice, if you were lucky) and portable computers with separate battery packs because portable computers were more like suitcases.

You also had large low-voltage battery systems that powered telephone systems during power outages, or were used in substations to support monitoring and control. Now we have batteries that have gotten smaller, smaller and smaller. Manufacturers now have batteries that not only fit inside a pen, but can fit on the tip of a pen as well.

Have we hit the wall? Where is this energy storage going?

Regardless if you’re considered green, non-green or, like most Americans, somewhere in between, energy storage will become an increasingly important part of the quality of life. In addition to aggressively redesigning the electric automobile industry, Tesla is taking some very bold steps in advancing the energy storage landscape for home, commercial and utility-scale use. According to Thomas Fanning, CEO of Atlanta-based power utility Southern Company, his company has reached an agreement with Tesla Motors, Inc., to test commercial-scale battery storage.

To fully realize the potential of distributed or renewable energy, energy storage will continue to expand. But one real potential benefits is directly related to disaster response or restoration. Having access to safe and cost-effective energy will always be the core element to the U.S. economy, but our requirements to improve grid effectiveness and reliability is becoming increasingly important. As utilities work to prevent wide outages, or restore electric power following a disaster, it’s critical to expand the role of energy storage to improve the reliability of the electric power grid.

3d metal human brain inside pencil light bulb with business strategy as conceptElectric utility industry leaders around the world are finding ways to work together to develop scalable solutions. But we need to note that a major component is the development of teams to plan, design, integrate, deploy and operate the evolving smart energy systems of tomorrow, all while maintaining and upgrading the systems we depend on today.

This will require the expanded use of technology to support the development of virtual energy teams. That will ensure, as we integrate energy storage into our homes, businesses and the electric utility power grid, we receive the full benefit of these emerging technologies. This expansion, along with other technology advancements, will improve our ability to connect to reliable electric power.

About the author

Dan is our account executive in the Critical Infrastructure market and has more than 35 years of providing customer-driven technology and energy solutions to critical infrastructure operators in the United States and Canada. He focuses on critical intelligent infrastructure, from smart grids to communications connections, and how they are used as consumers become energy portfolio managers.