Long-duration Energy Storage Beats the Heat 

August 10, 2023

Chicago skyline at night image
By Hugh McDermott, Senior VP of Business Development and Sales

As temperatures have skyrocketed around the globe this summer (July was the hottest month ever recorded globally) the threat of climate change has felt more present than ever. While heat waves are nothing new, they are growing in severity and duration and are now affecting more temperate regions as well. As temperatures continue to rise and weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable, the urgency to address climate change and its impacts becomes even more apparent.  

Heat waves have become synonymous with power shortages and outages, especially in arid states like California, where there have been multiple high-profile instances in recent years. Extreme heat puts the stability of the grid in jeopardy, as increased energy usage from millions of air conditioning systems for extended periods throws off the balance of energy supply and demand.  Extreme heat also stresses transmission lines, potentially causing them to droop, leading many utilities to pre-emptively shut off power to minimize chance of lines coming into contact with dry foliage and igniting fires. Even if a wildfire isn’t caused by electrical equipment, hot weather means fires spread more rapidly and can damage grid infrastructure leading to extended outages while repairs are made. Power outages during a heat wave are especially dangerous, as the lack of air conditioning can pose serious health consequences to some people, even death. 

Growing energy storage capacity can tackle global warming and improve grid reliability 

Long-duration energy storage will be key to reducing emissions and preventing power outages. Energy storage allows renewable energy to be captured when available and used later when needed. It also plays a vital role in stabilizing the grid by smoothing out demand peaks and troughs and boosting transmission capacity. In fact, the growth of energy storage deployments has been credited as one of the primary reasons why power grids in California and Texas have stayed up and running this summer. The need for long-duration energy storage will become increasingly critical as the world transitions to renewable energy while maintaining power reliability around the clock.   

Where lithium-ion batteries fall short  

The predominant energy storage technology deployed to date has been, lithium-ion.  It has been demonstrated to be cost effective for shorter-duration energy storage applications.  The technology is likely to continue its dominance in grid deployments for the forseeable future, but investors and operators are increasingly weighing the safety and performance risks of this technology, especially in the context of extreme weather events. Taken together with the trend of grid operators needing longer duration storage to maintain reliability with rising RE energy penetration, LIB will not always be the right choice.   

Iron flow batteries are a safer solution for a changing climate  

Today’s rapidly changing climate calls for innovative energy storage technologies that can better match the generation profile of renewable energy and safely operate under more extreme weather conditions. Consisting of safe, earth-abundant materials like iron, salt and water, iron flow batteries do not have the same toxicity or fire hazards associated with lithium-ion batteries. ESS’ iron flow battery technology has been certified to Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) 9540A, 1973 and 9540 standards, affirming their overall safety performance. ESS technology is a safe, proven option for customers located in regions prone to extreme heat events or in urban or densely populated areas and iron flow batteries do not require cooling systems to operate efficiently. These are some of the key reasons why the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) selected ESS batteries to help achieve their 2030 Clean Energy Vision. 

ESS iron flow systems provide on-demand energy storage for up to 10 hours better ensuring a reliable and stable grid and, helping fortify grids against heat waves and extreme weather events. By embracing innovative battery chemistries, we can effectively mitigate and adapt to a changing climate and ensure a future of clean, reliable and resilient energy for all. 

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