Energy storage gets military funding, and that’s a good thing

In recent posts, we’ve looked at some of the many ways in which the US military is funding energy storage, directly and otherwise. It’s hardly a secret that the Pentagon has nurtured many innovations through their difficult formative years. Everything from aviation to computers to the internet have benefited from military research and funding. It only seems right that energy storage, a technology that is so vital to the future of energy generation and human welfare, gets a slice of the cake, too.

Who should store energy?

This was the question most recently asked by Rasika Gokhale Athawale, in an article for Asian Power, and the big versus small, centralised versus distributed debate is one of the key conversations in the emerging energy storage sector. The central question being asked is: should energy be stored locally, in a household or community or office building, or are utilities better placed to do so?

Athawale also discusses a mid-sized model, consisting of between 20 and 100 households. Our opinion at Energy Storage Report is that local and utility storage are both essential at this point in time. Local solutions have already proven their worth during disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, and some prestigious buildings are planning to have their own energy storage back up (see below).

You can use domestic energy storage to save excess power from a PV panel on your roof for when you need it, or sell it to a grid when other users’ demand is high. But with big renewable generation comes big variability, and consequently you need big energy storage solutions to soak up the extra, then use it to fill the gaps.

US ups spending on energy storage

Steven Chu, President Obama’s Energy Secretary, has been making the case for a modest 2.3% increase in the renewables investment, reports Renewables Biz. This would bring the total spend to USD$27 billion, of which $60 million has been earmarked for researching and expanding the uses of energy storage systems. The money would be in addition to $185 million given to 16 different storage projects via the 2009 stimulus plan.

Is this sort of spending a good deal for the US taxpayer? Although not directly related to energy storage, some Department of Energy figures, as reported in GreenTech Media, suggest it is; the Government says every tax dollar invested in solar projects attracts 20 more in private money. If true, then surely this is the sort of market distortion most of us can live with.

The “C” word in US politics

Did you count the number of times the “c” word was used in the presidential debates? By some accounts, it was just twice, and once only as a put-down to goad the incumbent president. Yes, the subject of climate change has been about as popular as corporate funding in the battle for the planet’s top job, which concludes today.

Is it not amazing that in the aftermath of “frankenstorm” Sandy, the Democrats can only talk about green job creation and the Republicans throw scorn at the whole idea of man-made climate change? Whilst it would be unscientific to blame a single event on anthropogenic global warming, should not Sandy at least serve as an illustration of the direction in which the weather could be heading if we do not reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?

Apparently, the answer from the brave men who aspire to run America is “no comment.”

Tell Europe it needs to invest in energy storage

Energy Storage Report recently received an email about the European Investment Bank launching a public consultation on its lending policy to the energy sector. It is essentially an invitation to submit a written contribution by the end of the year, and attend a meeting on 7 December. So what are you waiting for? Get lobbying, and let’s see if we can persuade Brussels to give our sector the funding it needs to get energy storage working for Europe.

Should taxes fund energy storage?

All four stories posted today feature projects that involve government funding for energy storage-related areas – either directly, via the US Department of Energy, or through the backdoor of the Pentagon and NATO. With citizens’ taxes absorbing some of the risk of energy storage R&D, is this a case of unwarranted market distortion, a necessary evil or good government policy? Tell us what you think.