Electricity sourcing from storage technologies could be the key to solving energy supply variability, the Energy Information Administration reported.
As electricity demand fluctuates at different time periods, the EIA said improving the amount of storage capacity available could help decouple electricity supply needs from wavering energy demand.
The agency said energy supply is forced to change to match demand because the electric industry does not have large capacity storage. Since hourly demand differs depending on the day, week and year, the EIA said these time periods could be a way to shape storage capacity requirements. For example, storage can charge and discharge for consumption over a day and flattened to meet a daily average of hourly demand. The same can be said for charging and discharging over a weekly average or annual average.
To meet these requirements, there are various storage technologies including pumped storage, compressed air and flywheels. In the case of pumped storage, electricity is converted into another form of energy for storage by taking the potential energy of water and pumping it uphill to a reservoir. Storage capacity is currently below what is needed to meet periodic needs by day, week or year as well as what is needed to meet demand in real-time. However, there could be advances in technology that would allow large capacity storage of electricity to become more economical and may lead to additional cost reduction for companies regarding energy sourcing.
"In theory, it may be possible to store electricity overnight on a large scale to supply afternoon highs (daily), on weekends to supply weekday highs (weekly), and in the spring and the fall to supply summer and winter peaks (annual)," the EIA report said. "Each of these storage opportunities would likely require different storage approaches and technologies."
Solar power capacity beats wind power for first time
While electricity storage is continuing to develop to adequately meet needs of consumer demand, solar power capacity recently surpassed wind power, according to Fuel Fix.
Citing a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2013 will see an additional 36.7 gigawatts of solar globally thanks to photovoltaic panels while wind farms will see 35.5 additional gigawatts. BNEF said solar capacity is projected to increase approximately 20 percent compared to 2012.
"The dramatic cost reductions in photovoltaics, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes," said Jenny Chase, BNEF's head of solar analysis.
Solar energy capacity is boosted by less expensive panel costs and government support.