Member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives like Access Energy Cooperative study and adopt innovative technologies to help us provide safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible electricity.
Battery power is one of these promising technologies, but on a much larger scale than batteries found in a flashlight or electric car, of course. The ability to store large amounts of energy could transform power produced discontinuously by wind turbines and solar panels into a more reliable resource.
Even with good location and plenty of breezes, wind generation averages only about a 30 percent to 40 percent capacity factor and seldom operates at full output (due to a lack of wind) when power is needed most—during hot, humid summer weekday afternoons or cold winter mornings below minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar power systems suffer brief but dramatic drops in power generation when clouds pass over the sun.
That’s where battery energy storage comes in. Thanks to chemistry advancements, a new wave of better, low-cost and long-life batteries for “stockpiling” power are being tested by a network of electric co-ops, public power districts, and public utility districts across the country.
What does this mean for you? Large-scale batteries could allow utilities to store the excess energy produced overnight by a wind farm and release it the next day when folks head home from work, flip on lights, fire up stovetops, and turn on washing machines. Even better, this power would flow onto the grid during times of peak demand, when power costs skyrocket. We wouldn’t have to purchase as much expensive supplemental power on the open market.
Energy storage makes renewable energy more economically viable, which will be crucial as our nation works to diversify its electricity supply. It may also reduce wear and tear on traditional power plants, make electric distribution systems like Access Energy Cooeprative more efficient, and avoid or delay the need to build expensive transmission lines.
Access Energy Cooeprative, Northeast Power Cooperative and Associated Electric Cooperative Inc., our wholesale power provider, are tracking and testing energy storage programs in an ongoing effort to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable energy to our members.