Vestas Turns Toward Energy Storage
The world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines is looking to expand and not just by building more turbines. They’re looking to expand into a promising, new sector of the energy business – energy storage.
Vestas Chairman Bert Nordberg told Reuters that the company may be interested in investing in energy storage startups. With 3.2 billion and zero debt, they’re in an ideal position to do just that. Vestas may opt to purchase small stakes in a lot of companies in order to test them out before making a large-scale investment, Nordberg said.
Defining Energy Storage
Energy storage technologies are currently evolving as private companies, researchers and governments invest in research and development of new solutions. A wide variety of methods are used to store energy, but they all share a common goal.
The purpose of energy storage is to capture energy when it’s produced for use at a later time. That energy can be stored in a number of forms including electricity, potential, chemical and temperature. An energy storage device is sometimes referred to as an accumulator.
The Advantage of Storage
Demand for energy varies throughout the day, while generation capabilities remain relatively stable. This presents a challenge to grid operators who must ensure that energy demand is met and prevent blackout and other issue. Energy storage is one technology that may be able to help with this difficulty.
Renewable energy sources such as wind can help to meet this demand but can also make managing the grid more complex. Energy from wind is intermittent. Turbines generate electricity when the wind is blowing. When it’s not, they aren’t able to produce power.
For this reason, energy storage can make renewable energy sources even more useful. They can allow for more flexibility in using renewables and enable them to provide energy more reliably even when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.
Types of Energy Storage
There is a vast array of technologies that can be used or are being developed for storing energy. Batteries, flywheels, compressed air, pumped hydo and thermal technologies are all examples of energy storage methods.
Perhaps one of the most promising solutions for storing wind energy is compressed air energy storage (CAES). In a CAES, air is compressed and stored under pressure. When the energy is needed, the air is heated so that it expands in an expansion turbine, which drives a generator and produces power.
CAES technology can be used either at a large or small scale. They can also be located either in a central area connected to the main power good or in remote, isolated places. They have a relatively quick response team, are environmentally friendly and economical.
Researchers are currently exploring new kinds of CAES as well. One technology uses seawater as a liquid piston in air compression, which results are a new and highly efficient solution.
Another potential way to capture wind energy uses flywheels to store kinetic energy. Electricity spins a giant rotor in a practically frictionless enclosure. Inertia allows the rotor to continue spinning and when the energy is needed, that stored kinetic energy is converted into electricity.
Flywheel energy storage is advantageous, because it requires hardly any maintenance and does not damage the environment. They also respond quite quickly and can release energy within a short time period.
There are plenty of other types of energy storage solutions that could also be beneficial when used with wind turbines. As the technology progresses, we will continue to figure out what works best and what can provide with the most reliable, environmentally-friendly and affordable power possible.
Companies like Vestas, along with governments and researchers, are on the forefront of this exploration. What these investors decide to do with their influence and financing could have a significant impact on the future of our energy system.