Energy storage will be a key part of the grid of the future, according to industry experts speaking at this month’s Wyoming Infrastructure Authority conference. Currently, power generation and consumption are balanced in real-time, but storage would allow power generated now to be consumed later.
“You know, I can envision a day when right next to your hot water heater you have a battery," said Mark Lauby, vice president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the agency that oversees the power grid. "You store it up during the day and use it at night.”
That day may be here sooner rather than later. During a quarterly earnings call last week, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced plans to roll out just that kind of system, targeting homes with rooftop solar panels.
Other potential storage opportunities involve electric cars themselves. Jay Caspary is director of research and development at the Southwest Power Pool, which operates much of the electricity grid in the south and central United States. He told conference attendees about a Kansas City Light and Power program to install 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations around the utility's service area.
"Clearly they're looking toward the future, because that would support 10,000 electric vehicles -- there's less than a 1,000 in service right now in the Kansas City area," Caspary said. "So, they're planning for the long-term. I think we could use things like electric vehicles as a new storage medium for the bulk-power grid, if we got creative enough and tried to take advantage of that technology."
Utilities across the country are also looking into non-battery storage solutions. Last year, a coalition of companies announced plans to build a massive wind farm in Wyoming, connected to underground compressed air storage in Utah.
Wyoming itself currently has no commercial-scale storage projects in the works and the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources says it has no researchers currently working on energy storage.