Why is energy storage so important to managing ever-growing levels of distributed energy resources? Energy storage is a superset asset – no resource has more flexibility to serve as generation or load and to produce or absorb both real and reactive power. Therefore, the development of this technology is crucial to the electricity distribution evolution and its ability to absorb the coming tide of distributed solar and electric vehicles. The past two decades have seen two waves of front-of-the-meter energy storage growth: the pilot wave, followed by the grid-connected wave. However, the most important wave – the utility-integrated wave – is just beginning to build and more needs to be done to accelerate it by both the industry delivering the technology and the utilities adopting it.
The building momentum of distributed energy resources, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) cells on the generation side and electric vehicles (EV) on the demand side, will push existing electricity networks to the limit of their current design (see Figure 2). One of the early examples of this occurred in the Fall of 2013 when the Hawaiian Electric Company was forced to temporarily stop issuing interconnection permits for distributed solar installations. While these distributed resources are essential to meeting carbon emissions reduction goals, they challenge the centralized historical paradigm for how to design, build and manage an electricity system. Without the proper foundation of utility-integrated energy storage and software controls, renewable energy resources will face increasing technical headwinds, and valuable carbon-free electricity will be curtailed in the name of system stability and reliability.
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