Renewable energy is quickly sweeping the globe with its overall efficiency, relatively low cost, and low impact on the environment. Renewable energy, though, has had a long-standing issue with the amount of energy provided. Typical applications do not allow excess energy to be stored and reused during high demand times, still forcing people to rely on inefficient systems or fossil fuels. However, recent battery developments have changed the way we think about renewable energy.

The Problem

As wind and solar power become increasingly popular, more people are relying on these renewable energy sources to power their homes and businesses. Unfortunately, the very nature of wind and solar power can create an unstable electrical situation. Due to the normal unpredictability and fluctuation of wind speeds and available sunlight to generate solar power, electricity is not always available during peak demand times. This can cause power instability. Minimally, people can experience voltage drops in their electronic devices, which can cause frustration and can even damage electrical equipment. At its worst, large-scale blackouts can occur. So what is the solution to be able to use renewable energy and have it available for use during high demand times?

Past Solutions

In the past, renewable energy sources have relied on fossil fuels to act as a backup for times when more power is needed. The problem with fossil fuels is they are finite. This means that in the future, they will eventually be nonexistent. However, energy storage has existed for years, and while minimally successful, it does have some efficiency challenges.

Hydroelectric power has long used the practice of pumping used water back up to the top of the reservoir during low demand times in order to have a fresh water supply to generate power during high demand times. This practice proves to be about 70-85% efficient. Batteries have been used to add stored power to the grid when necessary, but in the past, they have had a very short life and were expensive. Traditionally, lead acid batteries were used for this application. This type of battery suffers from what is called sulfation, a cyclical charging effect that damages the battery. Lead acid batteries require a full charge to mitigate this problem, which can take up to 16 hours. Most solar and wind power applications do not come close to being able to provide power for that duration of time.

Recent Innovations

Recent battery developments have put an end to the lead acid battery problem. Lithium Ion batteries, commonly referred to as Li-ion batteries, have recently entered the renewable energy game and are quickly proving to be a game changer. These batters are a perfect solution and are not as prone to sulfation. With just a half a charge Li-ion batteries have enough power to withstand sulfation damage. Many countries, including the U.S., Europe, and Asia have started to use Li-ion batteries on large-scale farms to help store energy generated from renewable energy sources. These farms are then able to harness and release enough stored power to meet the needs of high demand energy times.

At Gausman & Moore, we are passionate about renewable energy sources to help create a greener, healthier future for us all. Recent battery technology has provided a solution to an ongoing problem. Our team of engineers regularly implements renewable and sustainable designs into our buildings. To learn more about our sustainable building practices, contact us today.