U.S. policymakers must focus more closely on developing new energy storage technologies as they consider a national renewable electricity standard, according to one of the principal recommendations in a newly released report, Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid, by the American Physical Society's Panel on Public Affairs (POPA). Establishing a national renewable electricity standard will help to unify the fragmented U.S. grid system -- an important step in the wider adoption of using more wind and solar for energy generation.
But, without the focus on storage devices, it will be difficult to meet proposed renewable electricity standards, the report asserts. Wind and solar energy are variable by nature: The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow. The amount of electricity a consumer has available to complete household chores could change in a matter of seconds, hours or days -- placing great importance on the need for robust storage methods.
Another challenge facing the grid involves the long-distance transmission of renewable electricity from places that receive a lot of wind and sun to those that do not. "We need to move faster to have storage ready to accommodate, for example, 20 percent of renewable electricity on the grid by 2020," said George Crabtree, co-chairman of the POPA study panel and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. "And, by devoting the necessary resources to the problem, I am confident that we can solve it."
The report addresses variability and transmission issues by urging the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to increase research on materials to develop energy storage devices and by encouraging the DOE to focus on long-distance superconducting direct current cables to bring renewable electricity to load centers, lessening the chance that power will be disrupted. The report also calls for examining renewable electricity in light of a unified grid instead of one that is fragmented and improving the accuracy of weather forecasts to allow for better integration of renewable electricity on the grid.
The APS report is unique among grid studies: Its recommendations cover both scientific and business perspectives.
The specific recommendations follow:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) should:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation should:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and private vendors should:
Forecast providers, wind plant operators and regulatory agencies should:
Wind plant operators and regulatory agencies should:
Full report: Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid
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