Energy Storage A crisis we dont think about.

We are living in a time where we can produce an endless amount of energy via renewable resources, yet renewable energy accounts less than 13.5% of the total energy produced (as of December 6th, 2016, from Institute of renewable energy.). How can the one thing that produces endless energy represent so little of what we are using? There are a few factors that are limiting the ability and full potential of renewable energy and electronics. It could be things like costs and the time it takes to research what places are best fit to place renewable energy generators like solar power or wind farms, but it could be things that we usually don’t think about. Like for example, if we did produce an endless amount of energy, where are we going to store it? It could be cost like how I mentioned earlier. Well, most time it seems that renewable energy is cheaper and have a good return, so I doubt it’s that. The second one? Yes, it is true that it takes time to research where to place wind or solar farms but they are being built at a great rate so I doubt it could be that one either. I believe that it is most likely to be energy storage.

Unlike fossil fuel, renewable energy is slightly different in the way that you store it. For example, you can store coal wherever you want, and when you feel like you want to burn it you can do that whenever you want. Renewable energy is slightly different, once it’s received, it must be used right away or it goes to waste. This is a big disadvantage of using renewable energy and it isn’t the only problem that we face when using renewable energy. Nature tends to fluctuate and doesn’t have the steady curve of energy like for example coal. For example, on a cloudy day, you would get less solar power versus what you would on a sunny day; or, with wind energy when you get sometimes super windy days and the other day where you just receive very low to no wind at all. To explain why this is a problem allow me to jump, to the other end of energy which would be us the clients. It's true that we tend to use a different amount of energy throughout the day, week, month but it tends to follow a trend. Thanks to that trend we can estimate how much a particle area uses and such time to produce just enough energy to give all the consumers without falling short on demand using fossil fuels. With renewable energy, the people tend to follow the same trend but the energy that is produced that day is different every day, because of when areas rely on fossil fuel there is generally a coal plant close by that is on standby. Yes, it creates more jobs because of the more plants needed but at the same time, it gives you a lack of trust to the reliability of renewable energy.

Now that we have an idea of what the energy storage crisis is, I can begin with providing the findings that I have found throughout my research. My first source is Energy for a Sustainable World: From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future. A book that acts more of a guide the illustrates the challenges, concepts and misconceptions, history of energy, and explains a lot of forms of energy. The book (and most of the sources) propose three solutions for this type this problem: super capacitors and superconducting magnetic energy, hydrogen fuel cells, and compressed air storage. These solutions will be explained later. The section starts off with what we have mentioned in the earlier paragraph. The section also takes the time to mention the power grid and states how the grid is outdated and wasn’t built with the purpose of renewable energy. I hope that somebody else writes about the power grid in detail because it’s an issue that also needs to be addressed. The section later says that energy storage benefits both "utilities and their customers not only for renewable energy but to solve a variety of problems that concern reliability and quality of energy" (267). This means that if we can store the energy even for a short amount of time, it can solve issues that not only relate to the grid but also give an assurance to the customer’s mind and not have to worry traditional problems that follow through with renewable energy. Three solutions that the section offers it also states that for every solution that is presented we must consider parameters like "efficiency, environmental risk, setting ease, and life cycle". All of these are logical parameters, what’s the point of being ecologically friendly if the process that it goes through isn’t. This is much like the E’s (Economy, Equity, Environment) that is mention in Jeremy Caradonna’s book Sustainability. This sections also lets you know that one solution to energy storage doesn't work for every instant and that there is no problem using different energy storage options at different times. We don't have to pick one or any storage solution, we don't need to be committed to a single type of energy solution for everything.

In the following 3 sections I will be giving you the details on the 3 primary solutions that I have come across if you wish to skip through this sections please feel free to do so and if you are very interested feel free to read through.

Supercapacitors and superconducting magnetic energy: This is a very efficient method to store energy with a 95% round trip energy efficiency. This Method of energy storage is by far one of the most interesting methods. This process begins with the first stage which is running the current through a coil. then you freeze the coil in a cryogenically cooled refrigerator. The temperature will drop and the energy will be stored for an indefinite amount of time. Truly an amazing process that I wasn’t aware that existed prior. Edward Barbour, the author of an article that describes how this works as a "method of energy storage based on the fact that a current will continue to flow in a superconductor even after the voltage across it has been removed". If you are interested in more details on this process and would like to know more about it there is a course on Electromagnetism and magnetic physics which is offered next quarter as B Phys 122, I highly recommend to read up on this process if you have the free time. This technology is greatly suited for short time energy storage. With its super high energy capacity and its great efficiency over small periods of time, it makes it a very great candidate for renewable energy like wind and farm energy. Another great thing about this technology is its lifespan, an average unit can last more than 20 years and has a very high chance of being recyclable. This is very good news because with a time slot that big that means that by the time it becomes time to replace a unit technology would have evolved to a much higher and efficient version of the one that exists. The amount of development that happens within 20 years is unreal, considering how great it sounds right now, and the worst-case scenario it'll only be as good as it is right now. This has demonstrated the environmental and Equity section of the 3 E’s from Caradonna’s book. The problem with a system with an energy storage like this is its cost to run. Because of how cold the coil needs to be, the fridges that cool the unit is very expensive to run because they use fluids like liquid helium or superfluid helium. This demonstrates the lack of economical part in the 3 E’s.

Hydrogen fuel cells: This is something that you might have heard or seen before; it is currently being developed with Cars, for example, a car that was Deputed on 10/21/2015 (Back to the Future day) was the Toyota Mirai, that comes in at the cool price of $70,000. You might also might have heard of it from NASA, who uses hydrogen fuel cells in their satellites. Invented in 1838, the way this works is beyond my words, but it has a very basic idea, hydrogen and oxygen collide and energy made and the byproduct is water. As long as you have oxygen and hydrogen in your car you’ll always have energy (Hydrogen Fuel Cell) sustainability wise, this method is very sustainable, the world is plentiful of hydrogen and if the worst byproduct is water there is no loss. Hydrogen, its fuel source is also extremely light weight, unlike tradition batteries that weigh a ridiculous amount of weight that it becomes a burden and makes itself inefficient. With this section meets only the environmental and equity section of the 3 E’s, yes, it is cheap to run but the cost of purchasing is very high, and the life cycle as of this moment doesn’t look any longer than a chemical battery. Another problem is how we can use hydrogen fuel cells to large renewable instruments and wind farms. From the direction that seems where the evidence lead is that a hydrogen fuel cells will just take a chemical batteries spot, the problem with that is that it would cost more and give no difference that is visible.

Compressed air energy storage CAES: Compressed air energy storage is similar to another type of energy storage, which is the hydro pump. A hydro pump works like this, there are 2 lakes that are separated by a vertical distance (height). When there is extra energy they use that extra energy to send water from the lower lake to the higher lake., when they need that energy they let gravity to do its thing and send the water down which turns a turbine to create energy. With the same principle, a compressed air storage is when there is excess electric energy, you use the power to pump/push air down in an underground cave. When they need the energy, they send the air up through a small hole that feeds a turbine that then creates energy. This technology is very practical and not expensive to run. This method came up as a storage idea to replace hydro pumps (The idea that gave its based out of) and now it is being considered to be put in a few more places. Problems with this method? There appears to be a lack of 100% CAES system. There is one that is set in Cheshire, UK to be completely running on 100% CAES system to be running in 2017. This means that there is a lack of data to assess the problems that come with it. This solution has the potential of receiving all 3 E’s for its economical, environmentally friendly, and equity. Buts still too early to tell.

Moving on, Batteries. The most common form of energy storage that we are familiar with. They are in everything we use in out day to day lives such as Cell Phones, Laptops, Cars, Toothbrushes, etc. Batteries are so common it would be crazy not to mention batteries in this paper; but there's a problem, they are old technology and highly inefficient. They might work great for your phones and laptops but when need for things like cars and power plant storage they give the client a disadvantage compared to its competitor. This isn't a hard point to prove in Rinke's article. In his article, Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Cars 8 out of the 10 points brought up were all related to the battery and all were good points. One point included battery replacement which is a very important point, an electric car's batteries needs to be replaced "every 3 to 10 years". You may think “well it can’t be that expensive?” The truth is that it is probably one of the most expensive component in the car. That isn’t even the worst part, the batteries are located under the car. Labor itself includes all the components on top, including seats underliner, etc. which isn’t a quick process. You may wonder why not in the hood of the car like every gas engine runs? There are several reasons for that including safety, balance, and costs. Another very important point of batteries is that amount of energy that doesn't get used as charge but thermal energy according to Battery Charging a site dedicated to everything battery, they say that when energy that is being transferred to a battery “50 kilowatt-hours from the line and delivers about 42 of them to the battery"(Battery Charging) and that this means "most is lost to heat". Keep in mind the longer something charges the more energy is lost. Also, batteries are not friendly to mine according to an article by 3 Ohio state university engineering students, their article Battery Technology Fundamentals states that lithium ion batteries cause: "resource depletion, global warming, ecological toxicity (Kaiser, 2013)”. From the 3 e’s this resource is hardly fit for cars for it lacks any advantages in economic, environmental, and equity.

Before I conclude want to emphasize more on how this became a problem. IEEE has an article named IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, which is based on wind energy one of the critical points that the authors mention are how wind energy “creates the most immediate grid problems”. What this really means is that the problem didn’t start with the need of storage, it’s more of when we received the energy, because of it fluctuation it depended on, it was very harsh on the grid. So even with energy storage units’ work, it won’t guarantee that there will be a 100% success rate from energy generated, to energy stored, to energy received.

Conclusion: We have a serious problem when it comes to energy, most specifically storing it. We are currently very heavily reliant on fossil fuels because we cannot store the energy we make through renewable energy. Progress on making renewable energy is growing very quick new wind farms and solar plants are growing at an exponential rate, however, efforts to store it are very slow. To give an example a number of superconducting magnets that exist in the world are only seven small scale units are available and a proposal for large-scale units that are currently in need 64 million in funding (climatetechwiki). There are currently only 4 compressed air storages worldwide that are up and running and 3 more that are proposed (Storelectric Ltd). Hydrogen fuel cells have not been mentioned in any bigger scale projects, but in cars, it seems that there is a lot of support. Toyota states you will receive $7,500 in support plus $8000 federal tax rebate and another $5000 general rebate if you request this car so that the price of the car can drop to around $57,000. Keep in mind that Toyota has a large possibility of losing around $100,000 loss per car sold (Ayre, James). The research and development of technology is very costly and even with all the incentives that are given to the consumer, it is appearing very difficult to sell such products. Progress in Energy storage is very difficult. The good news is that when these products are not on paper and are used in the real world is that you don’t have to commit to one type of energy storage. Different Methods can be used for different energy generating instruments, and it’s a beautiful answer for our crisis.


- “Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES).” Energy Storage Association, 2016,

- Nair, Nirmal-Kumar C., and Niraj Garimella. “Battery Energy Storage Systems: Assessment for Small-Scale Renewable Energy Integration.” Energy and Buildings, vol. 42, no. 11, 2016, pp. 2124–2130,

- IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion. translated by J. P. Barton and D. G. Infield, vol. 19, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), June 2004, pp. 441–448.

- Dunn, Bruce, et al. “Electrical Energy Storage for the Grid: A Battery of Choices.” Review, vol. 334, no. 6058, 18 Nov. 2011, pp. 928–935,, 10.1126/science.1212741.

-Armaroli, Nicola, and Vincenzo Balzani. Energy for a Sustainable World: From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future. Germany, Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH, 15 Dec. 2010.

-Section 3. Battery Charging.

- Rinkesh. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Cars - Conserve Energy Future.” Energy Articles, Conserve Energy Future, 7 May 2014,

- Battery Technology Fundamentals. Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

-Barbour, Edward. Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES). Energy Storage Sense, 12 June 2014, Accessed 24 Nov. 2016.

- Ayre, James. Toyota to Lose $100, 000 on Every Hydrogen FCV Sold? CleanTechnica, 19 Nov. 2014,

- Hydrogen Fuel Cell. 2000,

-Renewable Energy - IER. IER, 6 Dec. 2016,

- “How CAES Works.” Project developers of grid-scale Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES). Storelectric, 2013,


Created with images by xegxef - "light lamp electricity" • Unsplash - "wind farm farm rural" • Lateral Support - "coal" • Photoshot - "stack battery energy" • LittleVisuals - "jet engine turbine jet" • Moyan_Brenn - "Money"

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