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Battery Storage: What is it and how can it help the grid?

B-E-S-S. Have you heard of it? It stands for battery energy storage system, and one day it could help improve the reliability of the electric grid.

“Advancements in BESS technology have the potential to make the energy that Walton EMC delivers more reliable, affordable and sustainable,” said Jeff Pratt, vice president of emerging technologies for Oglethorpe Power, a wholesale power supply cooperative that generates much of the electricity that is distributed to Walton EMC customer-owners.

In traditional electricity systems, power is generated, transmitted and distributed on demand, Pratt explained. Grid-scale batteries would allow for storage of electricity until it’s most needed.

A battery storage system acts like a sponge. It can absorb energy when there is excess supply and then release it back onto the grid during peak demand periods, such as when people come home from work and turn on their lights and appliances.

Grid-scale battery storage systems can help ensure reliability during extreme weather events, such as last December’s arctic blast that triggered record-setting energy demand across the state. If unexpected power supply challenges occur, energy stored in batteries could be discharged to serve as a supplemental form of electricity.

Batteries could also help power suppliers meet future energy demands, especially as the industry transitions to using more renewable resources, such as solar. While solar is one of Georgia’s lowest-cost forms of energy, solar facilities only generate power when the sun is shining. Solar’s intermittent nature presents technical and economic challenges as it becomes a more significant percentage of an energy portfolio.

Electric utilities across the U.S. are closely following battery storage technology advancements as they evaluate their existing and expanding power supply needs. In North Carolina, 10 electric co-ops already have storage systems. Officials there declare the technology allows them to “enhance reliability and achieve cost savings” to benefit co-op members.