3 Ways Energy Storage is Fueling the Renewables Revolution

By Larsh Johnson, CTO, Stem Inc. | March 9, 2020

Across our country, there is an increased focus on renewable energy sources to combat the extreme impacts of climate change, and address the problems caused by a growing demand for power from an aging grid. While significant progress has been made through federal and state incentive programs that have helped drive down the costs of deployment, there is still so much to be done to chart a path toward a clean energy future.

Accelerating development of solar and wind projects is a key to achieving renewables goals, but this is not enough. Storage solutions must be integrated to ensure renewable projects can deliver power when and where individuals and businesses need it, and minimize, or even eliminate, reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy storage must include artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize the value of distributed energy systems and enable them to participate in the rapidly changing, and complex energy markets.  AI-enabled energy storage will be critical to addressing three major trends that are fueling the growth of clean energy:

#1 Sustainability

Sustainability can mean different things to different organizations. Many, like those that have joined the RE100, have publicly announced goals to source 100% of their global electricity consumption from renewables by a specific year. In these cases, the corporations are working with companies like our partners Kearsarge Energy and Syncarpha Capital, which are developing solar projects, and entering into virtual power purchase agreements (vPPAs) and generating renewable energy credits for their customers.

For others with even more aggressive goals, efforts may extend beyond buying into vPPAs and renewable credits, which may be sourced in another part of the country. These organizations may also seek to reduce, or even eliminate, purchases of local fossil fueled generation on a 24/7 basis.

Energy storage plays a critical role in both of these sustainability scenarios. By integrating intelligent energy storage, companies can negotiate “shaped” PPAs where the both the companies’ load and the renewable generation are time-shifted to match the companies business need. Similarly, pairing energy storage with on-site solar enables installation of additional solar capacity to minimize purchases of brown energy. With energy storage on “both ends of the wires,” we can take on massive increases in renewable energy leveraging the existing grid.

#2 Electrification

Even though electric vehicles (EVs) only make up a small fraction of today’s auto sales, the market is expected to grow exponentially over the next two decades. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2040, electric cars could account for 57% of passenger car sales worldwide, and a similar percentage of light commercial vehicles in the U.S., Europe and China. The growth in EVs will translate into a need for new charging stations and create greater demand for electric power, ideally from renewable sources.

Power for charging is not just for passenger cars, but for delivery fleets, busses and industrial vehicles. And the electrification trend goes beyond vehicles to building owners and homeowners. They are increasingly looking at electricity as an alternative to diesel, fuel oil or natural gas for heating/cooling and cooking, whether as part of LEED certification requirements or their own goals for reducing carbon footprints.

Intelligent energy storage, along with renewable generation will not only support sustainability. It also will help the grid meet the increased demand for electric power at charging stations, office buildings, factories and homes. And in some cases, it will help the grid behind the meter, the building distribution network, meet the demands of new electric loads.

#3 Resilience

Natural and manmade disasters are putting a stronger focus on the risks and impact of blackouts. Conventional back-up solutions – like diesel generators – generate heavy emissions, which work counter to corporate sustainability goals. Moreover, even brief power interruptions can result in hefty costs as mission critical equipment goes through lengthy restart sequences, which can expose significant safety issues.

Leveraging intelligent energy storage to provide on-site resilience to planned or unplanned power interruptions reduces dependence on diesel backup. When combined with solar, it can create microgrid systems generating energy to power critical loads until utility service is restored. Together, solar and storage can ensure greater safety, business continuity and prevent losses associated with outages.

Stay tuned to the Stem blog and we’ll go into more detail about each of these trends. We’ll share how Stem and its customers are contributing to sustainability, supporting new electrification efforts and helping build resilience into operations.

To learn more on how to leverage the power of AI to develop and deploy an energy storage solution, download this white paper titled, AI for Energy Storage: How Athena Works.