The New York Times recently published an article outlining the role of energy storage in facilitating increased adoption of renewable energy. The article highlights two companies – SolarReserve and BrightSource – that will open and operate solar thermal storage plants over the next several years. These plants will use the daytime sun to heat water and salt. The latent heat will then be used to power traditional electric turbines after the sun has set.

The Energy Storage Council lists the following among the uses of energy storage:

  • Enabling “renewables, solar or wind, to store energy generated during off-peak hours for use during peak hours”
  • Serving “as an “electricity reserve” much like the national Petroleum Reserve” and acting as “as a safety net for future national emergencies”
  • Stabilizing electricity markets by eliminating “the disruption of major pricing moves due to weather, natural disasters or national emergencies” and smoothing “wide swings” between peak and off-peak pricing
  • Leading to more efficient use of existing generation by reducing the need to cycle up “peaker” plants at times of unexpectedly high load and reducing associated dispatch costs

How promising a technology is energy storage? How necessary is it? Is the United States doing enough, or too much, to support it?