Written By Madeline Acri, National Energy Storage Specialist at Soligent
Summer is here and you know what that means….heat waves! And with heatwaves comes strain on the grid. But let’s take a step back and discuss the US electricity grid to understand how it was established and how we expect it to perform for years to come.
In the US, power generation on a massive scale began with hydroelectric power from waterfalls and dams and then later coal-fired steam engines. The first power plant began operating in New York City in 1882 and served 500 customers within its first 2 years. After 1900 the number of power stations boomed. By 1950 about 46% of the grid electricity was provided by coal and 30% by hydroelectricity. Hydroelectric power historically was considered the largest “renewable” energy in the US.
Fast forward 70 years and only a few things have changed. In 2020, coal makes up about 19% of grid electricity and wind and solar combined now make up 10%. Now, we are faced with the challenge of aging infrastructure, particularly for transmission and distribution.
The good news is with the right focus and funding we can work to improve grid reliability by improving long-range transmission. But if transmission and distribution are where most of the system failures are occurring, we can bypass them entirely by incorporating storage into our distributed energy resources (DERs). Resiliency in any system is enhanced through diversification and redundancy. We have the ability today to strengthen our grid through supply-side and demand-side solutions, namely individual storage and VPPs. Increasing storage deployments and improving controls and connectivity will become more commonplace ways to improve resilience in our electricity. Keep your eyes peeled for more utilities collaborating with energy users, particularly by controlling devices with variable frequency drives and storage as a frequency regulating service.