Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Our Sustainable Future: A “green grid” for delivering solar and wind-based electricity

July 25, 2011

Green grid

A “green grid” for delivering solar and wind-based
electricity is a step-closer after the identification
of several technologies that could provide
energy storage for the grid.
Credit: iStock

Summary

After years of neglect, scientists and policy makers are
focusing more attention on developing technologies
needed to make the so-called “green grid” possible,
according to an article in ACS’ Chemical Reviews. That’s
the much-needed future electrical grid, an interconnected
network for delivering solar and wind-based
electricity from suppliers to consumers.

After years of neglect, scientists and policy makers are focusing more attention on developing technologies needed to make the so-called “green grid” possible, according to an article in ACS’ Chemical Reviews. That’s the much-needed future electrical grid, an interconnected network for delivering solar and wind-based electricity from suppliers to consumers.

Here’s study lead author Zhenguo (Gary) Yang, Ph.D., with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Richland, Washington.

“For two reasons there has been much more interest lately in generating electrical energy from clean, renewable resources such as solar and wind power. First, there are limited supplies of coal, oil, and other fuels. Second, the use of these fuels contributes to global warming. The problem is that solar and wind are not constant and reliable sources of power, since wind power fluctuates from moment to moment and solar power is generated only in the daytime.”

To more effectively use these renewable energy sources amid growing energy demands, electrical grids of the future will need more effective ways to deliver the needed energy.

“This situation poses a significant challenge for electrical grid operators because other power plants need to compensate for this variability and the U.S. power grid currently has little energy storage capability. To enable a significant level of penetration and effective use of renewable energy sources amid growing energy demands, electrical grids of the future will need a low-cost, efficient way to integrate and store this electrical energy. In addition, there have been growing concerns over the reliability of the aging electrical grid that is needed to provide high quality power to a digitizing society and electricity to power hybrid and electric vehicles. As such, electrical energy storage is widely considered as a key enabler to the future grid or smart grid.”

To find a solution to the problem, the research team exhaustively reviewed studies to try to find better energy storage sources. They were successful.

“We analyzed the conclusions of more than 300 scientific studies and identified several technologies that can be used for energy storage for the green grid. These include high-tech batteries now in development that can efficiently store electricity in the form of chemicals and reversibly release it on demand. Among the promising technologies are so-called redox flow and sodium-ion batteries, which could provide a low cost, high efficiency way to store energy.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Adam Dylewski at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Zhenguo (Gary) Yang, Ph.D.
Zhenguo (Gary) Yang, Ph.D.,
Pacific Northwest National
Laboratory Richland,
Washington