ENERGY STORAGE MAKES RENEWABLES POSSIBLE
While solar offers a new way forward for electricity generation, it is energy storage that will enable this renewable technology to become a cornerstone of Puerto Rico's energy future. Recent developments in battery storage technologies enable the possibility of a new renewable energy paradigm.
(1) Storage Enables Energy Independence While solar provides the mechanism of electricity generation, storage technologies are necessary to make that energy usable locally in the amount that is needed and when it is needed.
When Hurricane Maria destroyed the island's power grid, only those with solar and battery storage for their homes or businesses were able to utilize their solar energy when they needed it most, because they had designed their systems to operate independently when the power went out. For true energy resilience, solar energy must be paired with energy storage, either on an individual or local scale, to ensure that power is always available.
(2) Storage Enables New Energy Systems Energy storage as a technology also facilitates the transition to innovative new models of energy generation and distribution, which open the possibility of individual and local-scale energy systems. New schemes of energy distribution, such as renewable energy microgrids, promise the potential for greatly improved reliability, resilience, and cost-effectiveness of power supply. Other technologies are also emerging to help facilitate these new microgrids, such as "energy sharing", whether it be peer-to-peer, or at the community or municipal level. All of these new models rely on the use of energy storage.
(3) Storage Improves the Grid In addition to facilitating new local energy systems, energy storage serves important utility-scale functions which help the entire grid operate efficiently and effectively. Energy storage can be used to meet peak energy demand, a function previously reserved for natural gas peaker plants. Other emerging technologies can also take advantage of energy storage -- for example, an advanced software system can link together many solar and storage systems to create what is known as a "virtual power plant", capable of reducing the need for traditional power plants. The proliferation of storage can help vastly increase the reliability of power, improve cost efficiency, and ensure dependable service regardless of the weather.