The Importance of Energy Storage

Dec 12th, 2012

Image: (cc) Flickr user Final Conversation

ID’s investment focus on alternative energy solutions includes not only renewable energies like solar, but also innovative ways to store energy. Energy storage technologies have the potential to radically transform the global energy landscape in the coming years, helping to solve key issues for integration and deployment of renewable energy systems. The technologies are crucial both in developed and developing markets and present an exciting opportunity for innovation. This post will discuss the role of energy storage for everyday energy needs in both developed and developing markets.

Storing Energy in the Developed World

People in the developed world rely on batteries to run all sorts of consumer electronics on a daily basis without a second thought: cell phones, alarm clocks, laptops, iPods, remote controls. Buying disposal batteries or recharging batteries is easy: stop by your local convenience store and pick up a couple of AA batteries or simply plug in your device’s charger to the wall. Only when access to energy is limited, for example while travelling, do users really begin to think of the storage capabilities and lifetime of the battery. Then, some might try to extend the life of the electronic device by dimming the brightness of the LCD screen or switching battery performance to “power saver” settings.

Storing Energy in the Developing World

There are 1.4 billion people living without access to electricity and an additional 2 billion living with unsafe and inadequate sources of electricity. People don’t always require energy just when the grid is on, when the sun is out, when the wind is blowing, or, in the oldest of storage applications, when water is available. Without storage, most energy solutions would be wasted. Energy must be stored whenever accessible or available.

Energy storage is crucial for the most basic activities, for example, lighting a home at night or maintaining access to a mobile phone for longer than one day. In most emerging markets, however, it’s not as simple as plugging a phone into the wall: the grid’s power supply may be down or the user is paying for every minute of charging at a local merchant’s shop. Even for those users with off-grid, decentralized solutions, storage is essential. Most renewable energy systems, solar home systems for example, come with a battery because you don’t need lights when the sun is out.

What We Need: Innovation

Given the importance, continual innovation within the broad range of science is necessary to improve the variety of energy storage applications in both developed and developing markets. Significantly improving the quality of energy storage around the world would pave the way for the proliferation of additional life-improving technologies. Check back next week, when we’ll discuss the technology behind energy storage systems and what innovations we’re seeing today.

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