The Obama administration is making another big push to support innovation in the renewable energy sphere – this time in the way of storage for solar power. The U.S. Department of Energy announced a plan this week to invest $18 million across six different projects that are designed to help fuel the quest for solar energy storage solutions and ultimately get more renewable energy flowing through public utility grids. Right now, solar power makes up only four percent of the nationwide grid, and that’s mostly because solar farms in the States can’t capture solar energy around the clock, but electricity needs don’t stop just because the sun goes down.
We reported last week that renewable energy is growing steadily on a global scale and is now at an all-time high. The key ingredient that has prevented solar power from taking over the electrical grid is deceptively simple: storage. Having the ability to store enough electricity for later use—at night, on cloudy days, or during peak use times—is the missing link when it comes to being able to reduce the burning of fossil fuels that contributes to climate change.
In a residential setup, homeowners often opt to install batteries (like Tesla’s Powerwall system) onsite to store electricity generated from their solar panels, which can be drawn upon after sunset. There aren’t currently any scalable methods suitable for the grid, which spurred the Department of Energy to create this program. What the department has done, as part of its Grid Modernization Initiative under the SunShot Initiative, could help Elon Musk’s vision of a 100-percent sun-powered United States come true. He says it could happen in as little as 15 years, and Energy officials aren’t putting a deadline on the effort.
“Energy storage, solar PV and smart grid technologies experienced incredible growth in 2015, and we expect they will play an increasingly important role in reaching the nation’s climate and clean energy goals in the coming years,” Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson said in a statement.
It’s clear that finding storage solutions for electricity generated from the sun is a must. After all, we don’t want to see utilities wasting solar energy just to use it up, which is essentially what is happening in Dallas, Texas where wind power is so plentiful that a local utility lets people use unlimited electricity at no charge from 9pm to 6am. The whole point of renewable energy is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and the only way to do that is to find viable means of using it around the clock.
Via Think Progress