This NiCd battery owned by Golden Valley Electric Association can
In this day and age, we store all kinds of things. Even if we don’t realize it, storing items is part of our daily lifestyles. We store money in our local bank. We store grain in on-site bins or at a local elevator so that we can sell it when the price is right or we need the income. Gas stations keep gas in underground storage tanks so it can be accessed on demand when consumers need to fill their tanks. On farms and in rural areas, propane, wood, and diesel fuel are stored and used as needed. When you think about it, nearly every type of commodity, from the food we put on our tables to the fuel that runs our vehicles, is stored in one manner or another.
However, there is one vital element of our daily lives that isn’t typically being stored—electricity. Unlike other commodity sources, such as ethanol or natural gas, there hasn’t been an effective way to store electricity. Electricity must be consumed at the same time it’s generated, which creates a unique challenge. While progress continues to be made in developing energy storage solutions, we’re not at a point in society where it’s a reliable and an economical option for consumers. Batteries and other devices are being used in some applications, but the cost is prohibitive for most consumers.
We’re seeing significant investments being made in technologies that may soon allow for cost-effective and reliable energy storage. From Tesla’s Powerwall Batteries to water heaters being used as storage devices, we are in the midst of a potentially transformational time in history.
Energy storage, when it’s available and practical on a large scale, will likely be one of the most substantial innovations of our lifetime. Just as the accessibility of electricity changed lives decades ago and cell phones changed the way we communicate and talk to one another, energy storage may fundamentally change how and when power is generated and distributed. As with any transformative technology, energy storage will require major investment in infrastructure. When cell phones gained popularity, it took time and significant investment to place cell phone towers throughout the country for widespread coverage.
How close are we to viable energy storage solutions? The fact is, no one is quite sure yet. Electric cooperatives are playing a role in learning more about and potentially advancing energy storage options. Through our membership in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, we invest in focused research, tools, and resources related to storage and other technologies so that we can make well-informed and responsible decisions that affect your energy future. As energy storage develops, we’ll be ready to evaluate the role it can play in our energy future.