Emerging Trends in Renewable Energy Storage: What to Expect

At a Glance


Aligning renewable power generation with energy demand is one of the core challenges of the transition to cleaner energy. For example, solar systems tend to generate the most power in the hours around noon but may not be able to meet energy demands at other times of day. 

To meet demand and keep excess energy, renewable projects are adding battery energy storage systems (BESS). Just as renewable power generation itself has advanced quickly, new technologies in renewable energy storage are rapidly taking hold in the market. 

Advances in Battery Chemistry, Materials, and Design

The current typical BESS uses advanced lithium-ion batteries. While the work of developing new chemistry for these batteries is ongoing and seeing greater and greater results, there are other innovations in the field as well. Scientists worldwide are seeking alternative materials to lithium for batteries. These alternatives aim to improve longevity and capacity and include enhanced Redox Flow Batteries (RFB) and solid-state batteries. 

More Storage Solutions

BESS is rapidly becoming a standard method, with industrial batteries storing energy from solar generation for later use, and usually built on or near the solar site. However, new renewable energy storage systems are coming to the fore:

Short-Term Response Energy Storage Devices. Like the “quick charge” capacitors in consumer electronics, these devices store power for a short time and then release it as needed, particularly to smooth out spikes and dips in demand during a 24-hour period.

Distributed Storage Systems. While BESS are often centralized, distributed systems have a smaller battery at every location that receives power, commonly by replacing the power meter in a home with a battery. The key advantage of this system is that it can feed power back into the grid or run a home individually for a period, allowing for better grid management without interrupting service.

Hydrogen Storage. Hydrogen-based storage solutions use excess power to create hydrogen that can later be burned for energy.

Flywheel energy storage (FES) works by accelerating a rotor (flywheel) to a high speed and maintaining the energy in the system as rotational energy. When power is needed, the stored rotational energy is converted to electricity. 

New Applications for Tested Technologies

In addition, there are increasing uses for technologies that have been in use for decades, such as thermal energy storage systems. These systems can be used to recycle waste heat in heating or cooling plants, increasing efficiency, or as another source of renewable power, such a geothermal or ground source heat pumps, or even use the waste heat to drive steam turbines.

In Summary

In the long term, the trend in renewable energy storage will be rising efficiency and falling cost of the technology. As these systems become more common, developers, utilities and consumers will look for solutions that best fit their needs to develop flexible energy storage plans.