Letter: Water battery makes renewable energy certain

Stock SectorJune 6, 20183min14

Earlier this year, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced the awards under the Renewable Energy Standard for 26 projects throughout the state.

One project – with energy storage – caught my eye. Said to myself that more projects like that will put the final dagger in the “wind doesn’t always blow – the sun doesn’t always shine” argument of the fossil fuel industry. And there is a low cost, old school alternative to large batteries that can speed up the transition in New York away from fossil fuels to dependable renewable energy.

The technology is called Pumped Storage, or sometimes called a “water battery.” It would use the excess power generated by a wind or solar farm to pump water up to a reservoir at a higher level and return the water through a power turbine at a lower level (like a conventional hydropower facility) to satisfy later power needs.

Currently, the argument of the utilities is that coal and natural gas “peaker plants” are going to be necessary for years to come to absorb peak electric demand and maintain grid stability. Renewable energy sources only supply when their “fuel” (wind or sun) is available. But with dependable storage options, fluctuations of supply from a wind or solar farm would be negated, providing predictable, consistent generation to the grid.

Pumped Storage would be an ideal battery for most wind farms in upstate New York. The elevation changes which make wind sites attractive would also be ideal to set up a pumped storage system. NYSERDA has issued Program Opportunity Notices for Energy Storage Technology and Product Development.

As a proven technology, Pumped Storage should have equal footing in their research and development budget and should be a consideration for any 2018 Renewable Energy Standard projects.

John S. Szalasny


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