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Can We Store Energy for Later Use?

Feb-12-2012 By Barbara Zak
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Energy Storage- A Study for Storage in Washington is Being Considered

There is a current Northwest study in Washington, that is looking into the possibility of diverting excess underground energy, and storing it for later use. Right now, it is the million dollar question, because,the other pressing question that remains, is how feasible is this idea? That question is what is being  considered, as to whether it’s economically feasible and doable, here in Washington.  The study will determine and have answers to these questions when it wraps up, later this year.

Researchers haven’t drawn up cost estimates for any potential storage system, here in Washington. The facts are,they are a long way from proving that it’s even doable here, or that it makes financial sense to do this type of massive project here, and in this economy.

English: Basic princip of a hydraulic hydro en... energy storage

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Energy Storage- the Concept Isn’t New

But, if we think of this concept of energy storage, as a huge energy bank,where you deposit excess energy when you DON’T need it, and withdraw it when you DO need it, the concept makes perfect sense.

This concept has been used, most notably in our natural gas storage facilities, which are quite common across the entire United States.

A group of researchers led by the Richland, WA-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), are currently exploring whether the idea of energy storage can be put to use in a different form, here in Washington.

Energy Storage- How it would work in Washington

The goal here, is to store excess energy in the form of compressed air and water in the Northwest’s expansive, porous underground basalt formations. If it becomes successful, the concept could have big implications for our Northwest power grid.  There have been times when excess energy has been a problem here, in the past. Just last year (2011),the Columbia River Basin, experienced unusually high flows in our region’s hydroelectric dams, pushing them to maximum capacity.

The well-publicized event ignited a strain between the BPA, and the region’s wind generators, and wind farmers.  With the dams at full capacity, the BPA ordered them to shut down to avoid overloading the power grid.  Of course, the wind farms objected to the ruling. Just this last December (2011), a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, ruled in favor of the wind farms. Some citizens of Eastern Washington,have become alarmed by the ever-growing presence of wind turbines pumping new energy into the system. So, you can see that BPA and PNNL researchers are hopeful of the new form of energy storage alleviating similar over-generation events, in the future, should this energy storage concept, become a reality.  It would be a fantastic solution to those types of problems.

Here is an example of how energy storage could work here in Washington, as reported By Eric Florip, Columbian Staff Reporter.  As stated above, this is not a new concept.  However, the possibility of energy storage here in Washington, is a perfect example of  science and sustainability working together toward a better tomorrow.

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