Energy storage: Why are we ignoring thermal?


By Jesse Berst


Quick Take: A story from prompts me to ask why the electric power industry isn't doing more with thermal storage.


The article tells about a new product introduced by SSE, one of the UK's retail energy providers. It commissioned appliance manufacturer Dimplex to build a new electric "storage heater." Basically, the device heats up at night when electric rates are low, then uses the stored heat to keep the building comfortable during the day.


If widely adopted, the system would have major benefits to all of Europe, which is struggling to integrate renewables into the grid and which badly needs energy storage. It could also offer customers savings as high as 20%.


We call storage the "game-changer" and we bemoan the high cost of batteries, pumped hydro and other techniques. Meanwhile, we have tens of millions of electric water heaters installed already. Plus the ability to retrofit buildings with systems like the one described above. Plus the ability to pre-heat and pre-cool buildings that have a grid-connected building management system.


So why aren't we taking thermal storage more seriously? Why aren't there more pilots? Use the Comment form below if you can suggest why we have this bias against thermal storage.


More on energy storage...

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CA's new energy storage mandate: Does it signal the tipping point?


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

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