Energy Storage: Saving Electricity for a Rainy Day

By Maria DeKoning

Solar Panels on roof top

The change in the Earth’s climate over the past couple decades has revealed more information to us than ever before. Evidence has made it clear that we must change the way we generate electricity. Energy production is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions and totals more than both vehicle and air travel combined. We must switch to clean energy to reduce our impact on the environment, before it’s too late.

As many of us are already aware of, the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, is not something that can take place overnight. Even though fossil fuels have been on our planet for millions of years, we only started using them for energy production about 200 years ago. That being said, it will not be a seamless transition. To make it as swift and efficient as possible, we must find ways to improve current renewable practices and keep them reliable.

What is Energy Storage?

Some renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind power, can only provide electricity for limited hours of the day- making it essential that we facilitate energy storage methods. These methods store energy when production is high to be used when production is low.

There are two major categories of storage that differ in how long energy can be stored. Long-term storage takes place for days or even months and can be used when solar production is low for an extended period. Short-term storage only takes place for a few minutes to account for minor fluctuations of power- such as occasional cloud coverage.

Storage technology can receive energy in one form, such as wind or solar, and store it in another, such as chemical, thermal, or mechanical to be released when needed. The amount of sunlight that shines onto photovoltaic (PV) panels or concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) systems determine the amount of power that is generated. CSP systems use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight into a receiver. The heat from the sun, thermal energy, spins a turbine or powers an engine, generating electricity. Although necessary, energy storage is never 100% efficient. Some energy gets lost when both converting and retrieving it.

Why is Storage Important?

Worker repairing power lines

Simply put, battery storage is necessary because solar energy is not always provided at the time when it’s needed. The average U.S. household needs roughly 10,000-11,000 kWh of energy per year, at a consistent rate. Solar panels sometimes provide inconsistency due to fluctuations in weather. For example, sunny days produce more energy than needed per household per day and cloudy days produce less. Stored energy allows excess energy to be saved for when supply is low.

Power Outages

Power outages are most likely to happen in the summertime when the temperature soars above 90 degrees. Heavy reliance on air conditioners overloads the power grid, causing outages in neighborhoods and communities. On average New York state experiences roughly 1,700 outages per year and most occur in the evening when solar energy is at low supply. Storage smooths out the fluctuations of available energy and creates consistency.

Types of Energy Storage

Wind turbine

There are many types of storage facilities in operation today. Each differs in energy capacity and power capacity. Energy capacity is the amount of energy that can be stored (measured in kilowatt-hours or megawatt-hours) and power capacity is the amount, at a given time, that can be released.

Pumped hydropower is the most popular type of energy storage used in the power grid today. For PV plants, electrochemical storage and batteries are frequently paired together and thermal storage through liquids is commonly paired with CSP plants. The following is all of the potential storage techniques used:

Pumped-Storage Power

Pumped-storage power is a type of energy storage technology that is based on water. Water is pumped uphill into a reservoir through electrical energy when demand is low and flows back downhill, turning a turbine and generating electricity when demand is high. This type of storage requires landscapes such as reservoirs, natural lakes, or man-made dams.

Electrochemical Storage

Electrochemical storage operates in a way that is similar to how batteries in laptops run. Electricity gets fed into the battery creating a chemical reaction, allowing the energy to be stored within. The discharge of the battery creates the same chemical reaction to occur in reverse, causing the current to flow out of the battery by creating a voltage between two electrical currents. Lithium batteries are the most common but batteries can also be lead-acid, sodium, and nickel-based as well

Thermal Energy Storage

Thermal energy storage requires fluids, such as water or molten salt, to be used to store heat in an insulator until it is needed. The energy can be used in a variety of different ways, including directly (heating and cooling), or indirectly by generating electricity. The process occurs from boiling the fluid to create steam to power a turbine and produce electricity. Thermal energy storage is most commonly used in CSP plants by focusing sunlight into a receiver to heat the working fluid.

Flywheel Storage

Flywheel storage consists of a heavy wheel attached to a rotating shaft that expands energy to cause the wheel to turn faster. In this process, energy is stored in the form of kinetic energy at a very fast rate. Although this type of storage can provide power very quickly, it has the inability to store a lot of it.

Compressed Air Storage

Compressed air storage is made up of large vessels, such as tanks and natural formations, and a compressor system. The compressor system pumps pressurized air into the vessel that eventually gets released to turn a turbine and generate electricity. Existing systems often use the released air to produce electricity as part of the natural gas power cycle.

Solar Fuels

Solar fuels can create new fuels to be consumed or combusted to provide energy by storing solar energy in chemical bonds. Methane and hydrogen are possible fuels that researchers have evaluated to be used in this process because natural gas is mostly composed of methane. Natural gas is a form of energy which can be used to generate electricity and power homes.

Energy Storage in NY

Bridge over river

To ensure clean energy for the future of New York, energy storage is essential. Storage gives us the ability to rely less on fossil fuels and transition easier into renewable energy practices. The state government of New York has set ambitious goals towards a future that is abundant in clean energy practices, and energy storage.

In 2019, the state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) that will lead the nation towards the most aggressive energy and climate goals of any state in the country. The goals that are outlined in the act are as follows:

  • By 2025, 6,000 MW of Solar Power

  • By 2030, at least 70% Renewable Energy

  • Also, by 2030, 3,000 MW of Energy Storage

  • By 2035, 9,000 MW of Offshore Wind

  • By 2040, 100% Carbon-free electricity

  • By 2050, Reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) promotes the use of renewable energy sources and provides incentives for individuals and businesses to switch to renewables. The goals set out by the state can employ up to 30,000 New Yorkers by the year 2030.

NY Home Battery Incentive

In a recent Newsday article from Sept. 29, the state Energy Research and Development Authority stated that in the upcoming month, New York State will fund $3 million in rebates for the purchase of home solar panels and battery storage equipment. Hundreds of Long Islanders drained the previous $4 million rebate this past summer by installing systems. Those interested in signing up for the voluntary utility battery-use program to make their excess storage available to the grid will receive compensation up to $200 a year, plus installation discounts from the rebate and a federal tax credit.

New York is not the only state that provides incentives for the installation of solar panels. Similarly, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania also provide revenue, tax credits, and tax exemptions to the community in addition to federal solar tax credit. To learn more about what your state offers visit the site here.

Distributed Energy Resources

Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), are types of technology that allow for a cleaner and more efficient energy grid. They create less reliance on fossil fuels, lower energy bills, and resiliency to power outages. DERs play a huge role in helping New York achieve its ambitious energy goals in the years to come. NYSERDA defines the following as DERs:

Galli Engineering and Renewable Energy

Galli Logo

The team at Galli Engineering understands the need for a lessened reliance on fossil fuels and works to reduce GHG emissions. The engineers and scientists at Galli are qualified to provide renewable energy solutions to all areas of New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even Indiana. They are experienced in solar photovoltaics, solar thermal technology, geothermal HVAC supplementation, wind turbine electrical production, rainwater collection and utilization, greywater reclamation, building automation, and daylighting and passive solar irradiation capture.

If you or your company are looking to invest in energy storage systems, Galli Engineering can provide the complete round of services you need. If we can’t do it, we will use out-of-house to engineering firms to provide the full comprehensive list of services for the client to get the project done. The experienced team of engineers can provide you with the following and much more:

Assessment of feasibility of a project site based on.

  1. Shading

  2. Topography

  3. Geotechnical data

  4. Proximity of utilities

  5. Site size and configuration

Site Development

  1. Phase I and II Site Assessments and Property Condition Surveys

  2. Wetland delineation, mitigation, and permitting

  3. Environmental and Safety auditing

  4. Preparation of EIS and EAS statements

Construction and Permitting

  1. Address all of the comments from the client, contractor, investor, and engineers

  2. Prepare final permit set

  3. Sign and seal

Project Management

  1. Facilitate design between the client, the equipment supplier, and other disciplines

  2. Coordinate meetings with the client through conference calls and other means of communication.

Construction Management

  1. Provide continuous support during construction

  2. Requests of information (RFIs)

  3. Conduct regular site visits

For more than 30 years, Galli Engineering has assisted its clients in reducing the environmental impacts of their products, activities, and services. They strive to develop projects that adopt energy efficiency and sustainability through efficient design and construction solutions. Trust Galli Engineering for your next project and visit the website or call 631-271-9292 for more information on the wide range of services they provide.

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Article by Maria DeKoning
Maria DeKoning is the Social Media Coordinator and a Junior Environmental Scientist at Galli Engineering. When she is not writing blog posts for the company, she assists with environmental work such as Environmental Assessments and maintenance of the Galli social media pages. She enjoys researching new environmental topics and technology and making them known to the public through her writing.