Companies work to solve challenge of storing solar, wind energy for later

One of the biggest criticisms of renewable energy sources like solar and wind is that you can only get them when the sun is shining or when the wind is blowing, and that doesn’t meet the always-ready needs of our modern world.

But reports that several different companies are developing technologies that will store sun and wind power for later, so that it can be released on the electrical grid when it is needed most.

Earlier this month, Australian firm Cleantech Ventures made a “significant investment” in Smart Storage Pty to commercialize a hybrid battery for off-grid storage. The “ultrabattery” technology stems from research at Australia’s national science agency.

Flywheels from companies like Beacon Power have been approved by regulators for maintaining a steady frequency over the grid as power demand fluctuates minute to minute. The flywheels–essentially a huge rotating cylinder–are designed to absorb energy when the grid is making excess energy and feed the energy back to meet shortfalls in supply.

For several hours of storage, utilities are testing different battery technologies. Each of these techniques has different purposes and drawbacks but are getting serious consideration, say experts.

“There’s been more going on in energy storage in the last six months than in decades (prior),” said Garth Corey, an electrical storage consultant and former Sandia National Labs scientist. “There are true benefits, but we haven’t had the tools to do it.”