Powering the Grid

Summer 2015

_JHU2075_a_astia_CMYK_FOR WEBBatteries and other energy storage could ease many of the woes currently faced by our power grid, notes Dennice Gayme, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Having megawatt hours of reserve electricity for on-demand delivery would make the grid more efficient and reliable, and could speed up the adoption of unpredictable wind and solar power.

But while several grid-scale storage technologies—including pumped hydro, batteries, and compressed air systems—are on the market today, they remain relegated to niche projects. Gayme is identifying the barriers that are keeping grid-scale storage from reaching impactful levels.

For one, providers and regulators lack ways to evaluate how much storage is needed and where it should be sited, and to compare the costs of various options. Basic questions about storage also remain unanswered, Gayme says. For example: Is it more expensive than other means of increasing grid flexibility? If so, who should bear the cost?

Answering those questions requires connecting technical, economic, and regulatory factors.“The current literature shows that examining the issues from these perspectives in isolation leads to different answers,” she says. Researchers must come up with more analytical models and software tools to connect those issues. She is working on a computational model to identify how best to allocate storage after taking into account power losses in the grid and connecting this to market pricing.

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