The devastation of a winter storm in Texas provides further evidence that the country needs to provide the resources and infrastructure for energy storage systems to prevent future crisis. Extreme weather has become a bigger risk in recent years; including raging wildfires in California that we’ve seen in the past.
The problem is not just the winter storm or wildfires knocking out power. The issue lies in these states not having the infrastructure available to store power from renewable energy sources for extreme events such as the one in Texas. Demand for power in Texas is off the charts as residents try to heat their homes and power plants are unable to meet the demand. As stated by NBC News, “this wake up call exposes how the U.S. electrical infrastructure is not prepared to absorb steep climate-related spikes in demand for power”.1
While some wind turbines did ice over and go offline, the state’s largest grid (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) said the shortage was driven by a failure of non-renewable sources, including coal, nuclear, and especially natural gas.
How can an energy storage system create stability in the electric grid?
A huge challenge for power grid operators is managing sudden changes in electricity production and consumption; i.e. a winter storm like the one that has hit Texas. An example can be explained from Alternative Energy Magazine: electricity demand normally reaches its peak during the evening when the population returns home and use electrical appliances, etc. Natural gas turbines and hydroelectric generators are the most common electricity sources for peak demand. For solar power systems, a production peak is present around noon. Traditionally, grid operators have been able to adjust the output of power plants as needed to balance generation and consumption.
Energy storage offers an alternative solution: shaping the supply and demand of electricity by absorbing generation peaks and supplying power during demand peaks. In other words, renewable energy sources such as solar panels produce the power and it gets stored for later use during peak consumption times. This reduces the need to rely heavily on non-renewable sources like coal and natural gas, and allows energy to be available at all times and does not put stress on power plants.2
Other benefits of energy storage
Energy storage systems have a number of other benefits other than providing grid stability. It can reduce costs for grid operators and electricity consumers alike, by balancing peaks in consumption and surplus generation. Many electricity tariffs have time-of-use rates, but energy storage systems can shape the demand to avoid the highest kWh prices. Capacity charges applied to commercial and industrial users can also be avoided. Grid operators benefit from a reduction in peak loads: if the large-scale deployment of energy storage can reduce peak demand, grid operators can delay expensive upgrades to the network infrastructure.2
Fortunately, N-Sci Technologies specializes in the design and engineering of energy storage systems. This evolving sector of the distributed resources market is poised for large growth in the near term. N-Sci has been very active in this sector since its inception. Services include:
- DC Arc Flash studies;
- Equipment approval support;
- Full Engineering Design for utility scale, peak demand reduction and UPS use cases;
- Economic Analysis of Alternatives for sizing and siting requirements; and
- Connection Impact Studies for both Transmission and Distribution projects.
N-Sci Technologies Inc. (N-Sci), founded in 2003, is an energy industry focused company providing a broad range of professional engineering and technical services to electric utilities, generators and large consumers throughout North America. Located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, N-Sci is licensed to provide engineering services in Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia; and is a registered Meter Service Provider (“MSP”) in Ontario. N-Sci is also able to export our services to the United States.
The unique blend of utility, industrial, environmental and financial skills within the N-Sci team produces a creative approach to developing successful energy solutions. N-Sci has the capability to offer electrical engineering development, design, support, and ongoing management of power engineering applications. Utility interconnections has been an area of strength since the Company’s inception.
1Lederman, Josh. (Feb. 17, 2021). How one Texas storm exposed an energy grid unprepared for climate change. Retrieved from NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/one-texas-storm-exposed-energy-grid-unprepared-climate-change-rcna289
2Tobias, Michael. (Mar. 26, 2019). The Role of Energy Storage in Grid Stability. Retrieved from Alternative Energy Magazine: https://www.altenergymag.com/article/2019/03/the-role-of-energy-storage-in-grid-stability/30599