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As a consultant, you have been invited to critically evaluate energy storage systems, in general, and the connection to Solar-PV and Wind Turbines, in particular. 

In particular, your report should concentrate on the following areas:

Discuss the positive and negative aspects of energy storage systems.

Explain the commercial availability of energy storage systems which can be used to support some of the renewable energy applications, other than batteries

Examine the impacts on the environment during the usage of these energy systems, and the waste produced from some of these systems, if any, at the end of their life cycle.

Provide cost-effective recommendations for efficient energy storage for solar-PV and Wind-Turbines systems.

Evaluate the future development in the field of energy storage systems as a way for further sustainable development.

Energy storage systems: the pros and cons

With the growing environmental issues and the degradation of the environment, the world has started to look into alternatives and means that can provide sustainable growth and allow for more concrete development with lesser anthropogenic impact on the environment. Since the advent of time, the goal of necessary development has been dependent on energy extensively. The journey from non renewable fossils fuels to cleaner renewable fuels happened with the growing consciousness of the environment. The concept for sustainable development developed with the first Earth Summit held at Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Earth summit first addressed issues regarding environmental pollution and degradation of the environment. Prior to the 1970s very efforts were made to integrate and evaluate environmental degradation and it’s the social and economic impact (Barrow, 2006). Initially the concept of environmental management started with natural resources management which later was modified into sustainable environment management. The natural resources management was not promulgating and addressing the interest of the environment and a need for sustainable development arose to prevent the environment. The energy supplies of the world are majorly contributed by non renewable resources mostly petroleum and coal.  The U.N General Assemble adopted ‘Agenda 2030’ in 2015 for achieving Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs which is dedicated to ensure sustainable plans for energy for all. The Paris Agreement and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable development focuses on cleaner and environment friendly energy. The introduction of Solar PVs and Wind Turbines as sources of sustainable energy have gained momentum and over the years and is being promoted to meet the SDGs goal (Barton and Infield 2004).

The issue that comes with creating safe energy and reducing the environment impact is the storage of the energy and the life cycles assessment of these storages and the kind of impact they have in the environment. The report will look into the several kinds of storages that are available, the impact that they have on our environment, the sustainability of the non-conventional sources of energy and the way they create scope for sustainable environmental management.

The recent growth of the several renewable sources of energy it has become important to store the produced energy in storage systems. The future will see constant rise in production of energy mostly from renewable energy resources and the storage systems will be influential in determining the use of these sources of energy in the time to come. Decentralized electrical production from renewable sources yield more productivity and assures supply with fewer environmental hazards. The character of production of renewable sources being unpredictable requires proper systems of storage that would ensure uninterrupted power supply. The renewable energy resources fluctuate in their productions and therefore it is mostly important to have adequate storage facilities for the power being generated. The importance of storage systems therefore is paramount in any site of energy production. The section will look into the several concepts and types of storage systems that are being used to store energy produced form non conventional means (Dash, 2010).

Advantages of Energy Storage Systems: the Pros

Generally, storages are done in dry cells mostly including lithium ion for lower capacities. Higher capacity intakes are generally stored in system with complex structures which include mostly compressed air and flow batteries and fuel cells. Though compressed air and fuel cells are relatively younger technologies and field results are still not confirmed. Fly wheels and Super Capacitors are generally more preferable. Hydraulic and magnetic storages are also reliable means of intermittent storage. A look at the all the storage systems that can potentially create opportunities for the renewable energy will help us to evaluate the advantages they provide and the drawbacks that resist them from implementation in commercial scale (Sternberg and Bardow, 2015).

The advantages of storage systems in storing energy resources include transmission in remote area and locations and decentralizing of transmission. Storage systems are environmentally cleaner as compared to transmission of conventional sources of energy. There are several factors that add up to the advantages of storage systems apart from accessibility and installation of these systems in remote locations. Autonomy of the storage systems make them competent enough for installation in remote places (Barton and Infield, 2004). Autonomy refers to the continuous supply of energy from the storage and is defined in terms of the ratio between energy capacity and discharge capacity. The next advantage that the storage systems hold is the efficiency. Different systems have different capacities of energy storage and efficiency depends on the load they serve and the amount of energy that is being handled by these systems. Generally, storage systems are characterized by their ability to be permanent establishments or portable units. This gives an advantage over transmission systems and general methods of energy transmission. The option of energy storage in terms of duration is an also a flexible choice and an added value to the storage systems. The storage systems can be devised in terms of long term storage and short term storage systems and hence modulations according to requirement can be made. The storage systems can be moulded in to several requirements based on the amount of energy required and therefore these units can be made according to the maximum capacity required (Barrow, 2006). 

Looking over to the negative effects of the storage systems, the energy storage systems being recent inventions, innovations and advancement of technologies are still yet to come. The storage systems have a number of imitations that limit their applicability while establishment of units.  The storage systems have been grossly studied over their durability and life. The self discharge also demotes their application to various fields. The Self discharging character of most of the energy storage systems is generally an issue that affects the storage systems. The storage systems also require regular monitoring and maintenance with equipment controlling therefore they are less encouraged. Cost is one of the major factors attached to storage systems. Any form of energy production and transmission incurs huge investment costs and storage systems are not an exception (Hemmati and Hooshmand, 2017). The cost attached to the establishment and commissioning of these units have huge cost initial cost attached which is negative factor for the concern. Apart from these, operational constraints and reliability issues due to their unpredictable nature are major drawbacks of storage systems.

Disadvantages of the Energy storage Systems: the Cons

Since storage systems have been recent inventions most of their commercial potential is still under trials or field tests. The several technologies that are being used in storage systems have their advantages and disadvantages, which depend on their usage and application. Batteries are the most common forms of storages but are restricted to low capacity usages. A look at the following storage systems will enable us to understand the various storage systems that are in common use for storing energy from renewable sources.

The storage systems include:

  • Pumped Hydro storage (PHS)
  • Thermal Energy storage (TES)
  • Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES)
  • Small scale Compressed Air Energy Storage (SSCAES)
  • Natural Gas Storages (NGS)
  • Flow Battery Storages (FBS)
  • Fuel Cell Storages (FCS)
  • Fly Wheel Energy storages (FWE)
  • Super Conducting Magnetic Energy Storages (SMES)
  • Energy storage in Super capacitors

The various storage systems have several applications and are generally used based on their application and requirement (Sternberg and Bardow 2015). The most commercial viability depends on several factors that include the amount of energy required and the budgetary allocations available. The geographical factors are also taken into considerations while considering their availability.

The pumped hydro storage or the PHS storage facility is a system involving the storage of energy by accessing the power of water. It has the capacity to store high capacity energy that can range to almost 100 MW and is readily available where water resources are abundant. The system involves pumping water from a lower storage to a higher storage when water inflow is less, during peak load times water is allowed to flow from the higher reservoir to the lower one producing higher capacities of electricity (Chen et al 2009).

The Thermal Energy Storage uses the power of heat to transform fluids into steam and thereby turn turbines to generate electricity. Generally different compounds are tried to store heat in forms and mostly include Sodium, Molten salt and pressurized water systems. The general techniques involve transforming the preserved heat into other forms of energy. The TES has a high efficiency and does not have geological constraints.

The compressed air energy storage systems are the most cost effective means of energy storage systems. They achieve similar efficiencies compared to their competitors. The CAES uses the mature technical application using high pressure compressed air to store the energy at lesser operational costs (Lund and Salgi 2009). This increases feasibility and cost effectiveness of the issue. Generally deep salt mines or rock caverns deep underground are used to store the compressed air and are simultaneously used to generate electricity. Researches reveal that air can be compressed in cisterns and similar pressure which would remove the geological constraints and allow commercial viability of the storage facility.  

The other storage system uses technologies that have not been commercially applicable and have only been lab tested so far. These applications are yet to be tested commercially and further innovations will still going on in these systems of energy storage.

The storage systems have an environmental impact that can be that can be analysed depending on the lifecycle assessment of the different storage systems. Most of the storage systems that store renewable energy require use different compounds and processes to harness and store the energy (Sternberg and Bardow 2015).  A brief look into the various storage systems will allow us to understand the impacts that they can create and will help us to see their positive or negative effects in the surrounding.  

Commercial application of energy storage systems

The storage systems are generally cleaner and have less environmental impact as compared to their counterparts in the conventional formats. The environmental impacts of the energy storage systems can be evaluated through an over view of the life cycle analysis of the various systems based on their consumption of energy for operation which requires the sources from traditional means. The establishment of the facilities and their operation incurs an impact which also needs to be taken into account. The impact on the environment can be measured in terms of a functional unit and the necessary impact can be understood through the evaluation of the unit per capacity.  The impact of the environment can be accessed through their impact on global warming, fossil depletion and resource depletion.  An impact on the environment includes categories that have promote eutrophication in fresh water and marine ecosystems, human toxicity, mineral resource degradation, ionizing radiation, ozone depletion and photochemical oxidation (Ibrahim, Ilinca and Perron 2008).  The impact will also include acidification, categorization according to the carbon and water footprint that follow throughout the life cycle of the energy storage systems.  A brief schematic below will allow us to understand the impact with respect to global warming and CO2 footprint and greenhouse emissions.

Schematic 1: Assessment of environmental impacts of Energy Storage Systems.

Source: (Sternberg and Bardow 2015)

The several process through out the life cycle of the energy storage systems include various impacts at each stage and therefore the impacts vary depending on the basis of the compounds being used in the processes.

The impact of the HES storage systems include water footprint due to their massive use of water as a mens to store energy. The amount of water stored incurs heavy impact on the footprint for the HES systems (Hemmati and Hooshmand 2017). The HES systems generally have no other environmemntal impacts apart from the water usage and impacts in the ecology while establishment is constructed. The toxicity of the chemical storage systems and and chemical batteries inculde impact from the  radiation of the compounds that are used in the storage systems.  

Mostly the impact created by the ESS are environmetally cleaner and less impactful in the environement. Most of the ESS being based on renewable and greener energy sources have less footprint that is attached to the production of these sources. The storage capacitors that involve compressed air, Natural gas storage systems and the Magnetic storages mostly store energy in  different forms that mostly using energy dynamics and capacitors thereby reducing the impact on the environment (Sternberg and Bardow, 2015).

Solar PV Panels

With the growing environmental concerns and introduction of the energy storage systems in renewable sectors of energy, there has been constant evolution of the several technologies that are being installed. The Solar PV or the Solar Photovoltaic cell has gained popularity in domestic use and has been the most used energy storage system since the advent of the technology. The most important cost effectiveness of the Photovoltaic cells lies in the fuel cost which is completely free (Reichelstein and Yorston, 2013.). The fuel being solar power is abundant and completely free of cost. The low cost production of the Solar PV cells have seen increased production and around 3500MW of Photovoltaic systems have been installed around the world currently. Looking at the cost effectiveness of the Solar Cells, a major portion can be attributed to the operational cost which is fairly low, a number of government subsidies that have been allowed for installation of the solar PV systems have made it more cost efficient for domestic purposes, which eventually has increased the popularity of the technology.

Impacts on the environment and waste management

 Given its potential with respect to energy production at lower costs, recommendations have been made all around the world. Solar PVs are basically of three different types and generally include Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin film of which the efficacy of monocrystalline is the most competitive. With growing technological advancements, it is estimated that the Solar PV technology will increase considerably. There has been almost 17GW production in 2010 which has been around 250% increase relative to 2009 production output (Reichelstein and Yorston 2013). The future of the Solar Photovoltaic technology seems promising with its applicability in off-grid domestic and non domestic sectors. The On grid applications are also in the use and seem promising in the years to come. The cost efficiency being gradually increasing with newer technologies, Solar PVs are the future of energy productions

The next possible prospect of energy production relative to cost efficiency seems probable through Wind Turbines. Among renewable sources of energy, wind turbines have grown considerably with competent technological advancements. The next few decades are supposed to see an increase in wind power production through Wind turbines. 238351 MW of power was produced from wind turbines across the world in 2011 (Blaabjerg and Ma 2013). There future growth of wind power seems promising with the rising installations of wind farms and turbines. The VAWT or the Vertical Axis Wind Turbine technology is estimated to dominate the wind power generation sector in the coming years. The necessary elements that count for wind power will now be dependent on the cost efficacy of the system and its versatility. The levelized cost of energy or the LCOE is the annual cost of generating electricity divide by the annual energy production. The LCOE for wind turbines will allow us to understand the feasibility of Wind turbines in commercial and domestic use (Kumar et al 2016).

Looking at the cost structure of the wind turbine systems, the cost effectiveness can be evaluated. The establishment cost was initially higher during the 1980s but with recent technological developments, the costs of establishment have gone down. The operational costs are comparatively lower compared to their counterpart technologies in conventional sources (Martínez et al 2009). There is completely no cost of the fuel which is wind being available completely free of cost allows for competent prices for the output. There is reduction in dependency on fossils fuels, and less environmental degradation, no harmful emissions as compared to other sources and relatively safer impacts. In favourable conditions with good wind speed at round 8-9 m/s, the cost of electricity can come down to 4-5 cents/kWh, which will definitely decrease with increasing technologies in the sphere (Ondraczek, J., Komendantova and Patt 2015). The average life of wind turbines being 25 years can also elongate to greater numbers with technical advancements. Given the life cycle of the assets the cost of the electricity can be further decreased.

With government subsidies and several other promotional policies the Wind turbines can are probable recommendations for the future source of energy. The average capital costs have reduced substantially since the initiation of the technology and future times are more promising with further evolved implications such as VWAT technologies.

Cost-effective recommendations for solar-PV and wind-turbines

The future world of energy productions with emphasis on greener and sustainable production of energy and their storage facilities will reach new heights. The non-conventional sources of energy are no longer ‘non conventional’ and are comparatively becoming popular in use and application. The changing climate of the globe, with serious environmental degradations has compelled humanity to seriously look into the resources and technologies that tap the enormous energy available in the environment in safer and less impactful means. The various storage systems and their modifications have allowed man to create more opportunities than ever to tap resources from the renewable sources. Apart from the most popular technologies of Solar Photovoltaic cells and Wind Turbines, Hydro power and storage systems, several other technologies have been recently being researched and developed for future implications in commercial scale. The tapping of the geothermal energy, the Tidal energy and inventions of Fuel Cells show possibility of more cleaner and accessible ways of energy productions. The Fuel cells are the most recent of the technologies that involve transformation of chemical energy into electrical energy. The necessary developments have been recently in research in this technology. The developments have been made in microbial fuel cells which can derive energy from microbial activity and chemical transformations (Santoro et al 2017).  

The geothermal energy is a comparatively older technology but very few applications are operational. The tapping of the geothermal steam to rotate generates in creating electricity is currently being used through natural geysers (K?rl? and Fahrio?lu 2018). Though the technology has a geographical constraint, technological modifications can make it a possibility in the future.

The Fly Wheels are mechanical arrangements where either steel or recently carbon fibre wheels are rotated at high speed generally in a vacuum chamber to eliminate energy loss and generate electricity from the rotational energy of the wheels (Dagnæs-Hansen 2018). This is a completely newer technology and that will see more developments and field application in the later years. The technology uses mechanical bearings that sustain the energy in the system. Conservation of energy is applied in the field to store energy.

Tidal power tapping, is done by converting the energy of tides into power resources mostly electrical. The technology is not widely used but has the immense potential to create huge sources of energy given the huge amount of resource available in the planet. The technology involves the generating electricity by rotating turbines through tidal power and storing the energy through Tidal Energy Storage Systems (Martin et al 2018). These storage systems harness the energy created through the turbines and store them through electrolysers or electrolyte membranes to generate hydrogen and store the energy in the form of fuel cell.

 Few other technologies include the Super Conducting Magnetic Energy Storage devices that can harness the power and transform them into competent energy storage systems. The system stores energy in magnetic fields that is created by superconducting coils at extremely low temperature or cryogenic temperatures where energy is stored indefinitely (MIYAZAKI et al 2018). The SMES store energy and release back by discharging and are potential storage systems for energy preservations. The technology is a younger and cost constraint technology and is currently used only for short duration energy storages. The technology has the potential for greater future applications at a commercial scale.

Future development in the field of energy storage systems

The recent developments in bio fuels and microbial fuel cells have generated much interest. There have been recent developments in these sectors and mostly include energy storage in forms of natural gas from anaerobic digestion and biological residues that are obtained from organic sources (Altawell 2014). Several researches from probable sources as sugar cane, sunflower, soybeans and cow-dung are being practiced at smaller non commercial scales. The use of biomass in energy generation and storage in bio cells have provide promising possibilities in alternate storage systems and energy storage systems. The newer developments and technological advancements provide hope for the future towards sustainable development and energy production.


Energy is the most important need of all times and without adequate and enough energy the world would cease to exist. With environmental stress and degradation, the world needs to look into sources and technologies that provide sustainable solutions to energy production and energy storages for future uses. The potential of the natural energy reserves to generate power and provide energy is infinite and it is time to understand the pathways of these energy systems and tap them for future and current use. The technologies that are already in use show progressive results and it proves their competence to producing solution to sustainable energy. The growing popularity of Solar PVs and Wind Turbines and similar other cost effective sources can provide plausible solution sustainable sources of energy production. With growing technological innovations in energy storage systems and their increasing capacities in terms of efficiency and effectiveness will foster the growth of energy production through sources that have less impact and would allow optimum use of the available resources. Though most of the technologies are still cost effective, feasible technologies are just a matter of time. It is important for the countries to promote sustainable energies for greater use and mass production.

The technical innovation and progress will not only allow us to find a sustainable alternative but at the same time offer job opportunities fostering in the economic development. Storing energy in different forms gives an infinite opportunity to harness the greater forces of nature and storing them in different forms. The recent technologies that are developed will see further innovation along time and the efficiency of the storage systems and sources of energy will be enhanced. The issue that restricts the usage of the systems and sources of power also needs to be modified. The issues regarding reliability, efficacy and cost needs to be re innovated and competitive attributes should be developed.  The use and application of these technologies should be promoted and encouraged to ensure sustainable growth.

The investment behind research and development also needs to be enhanced to promote faster innovations applications of these technologies. The promotion of cleaner sources of energy will not only create cleaner environments, but economic growth will also be improved with the implementation of these technologies. It is time to understand the need of the hour and concentrate our efforts and resources in more sustainable development.



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