Why it’s time for cities to get smart about energy storage

It's easy to see why energy network improvements are often the first choice for cities that want to become smarter, more sustainable and more livable. A smart energy network offers a reliable, less carbon-intensive, safer and more resilient source of power than traditional energy distribution networks. If your city is planning a smart energy upgrade — one that includes clean, flexible, sustainable renewable energy — an energy storage component is something you will want to consider. Our story below, which highlights new findings from Navigant Research, explains why. — Doug Peeples


When we think about energy storage it's usually something along the lines of storing a renewable energy resource like solar or wind energy when it's abundant and releasing it when it's needed later. That's true, but it's a fairly simple explanation and there's more to it, particularly for smart cities, as a new Navigant Research report makes clear.

The report, Smart Cities and Energy Storage, focuses on energy storage applications specifically for smart cities in conjunction with the use of distributed energy resources (DER) such as wind farms and rooftop solar arrays.

As William Tokash, a senior research analyst for Navigant Research explained, "Smart energy technologies such as energy storage will increasingly be called on to address the sustainability needs of the urban energy transformation now underway. Specifically, energy storage is now poised to support the delivery of low carbon DER to reduce peak energy use and improve the resilience capabilities of urban landscapes by enhancing access to reliable electric supply."

Why does resilience matter?
When major storms and other unusually severe weather occur, energy storage can act as a buffer and contribute to power outage management because at least some power is available even if the electric grid is down. But that resilience isn't important only for cities that experience severe weather such as hurricanes and flooding. Several days of unusually hot weather can tax an electric grid, particularly during periods of peak demand — such as when people return home on extremely hot days and the first thing they do is turn on the air conditioning.

The report notes that adoption of energy storage technologies has grown substantially over the past two years, and part of the reason for that is its ability to contribute to the use of flexible energy capacity. Navigant put it this way: "The emergence of energy storage's ability to make DER more flexible, less carbon-intensive, and more resilient is redefining how smart energy solutions can support the sustainability needs of an integrated smart city technology and solutions platform."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.