Solar panels and wind turbines can generate a lot of power. But without a way to store the energy produced by these clean sources, their ability to provide most of our electricity is limited.

Imre Gyuk directs the energy storage program at the Department of Energy. He explains that electricity has traditionally been produced on demand.

Gyuk: “As the load changes throughout the day, the generation can be adjusted accordingly.”

But with renewable power sources, things get more complex. The sun cannot shine brighter just because everyone turns on their air conditioners.

So finding a way to store energy that we can use as needed is a priority. Gyuk believes a new type of flow battery is one promising method. Flow batteries can handle fluctuating amounts of energy better than traditional lithium ion batteries.

They’re currently more expensive, but flow batteries are getting cheaper to make, and people are starting to use them as a powerful and cost-effective storage solution. Several states have already incorporated flow batteries into local energy grids.

Gyuk: “Ultimately, using storage means that more renewable energy can be accommodated on the grid.”

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So flow batteries are one promising way to store power for use when it’s most needed.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Daniel Grossman

Daniel Grossman, Ph.D., is an award-winning freelance print journalist and radio and web producer with more than 20 years of experience. He earned his B.S. in physics and his Ph.D. in political science,...