According to a new study, aquifer thermal energy storage could significantly reduce the demand on the energy grid for heating and cooling services that are tied to months when renewable energy generation is at its lowest.
It’s Not All About Energy Generation
When the topic of decarbonization comes up, oftentimes, we think of transportation or energy generation. These issues are important, as vehicle emissions are a major problem, as well as emissions from fossil fuel power generation. However, while important, these issues only partially show the roadblocks to moving towards a green future.
Another component that needs to be addressed in the conversation is energy storage and efficiency in renewable energy
Wind and solar energy are important and rapidly developing technologies but are dependent on weather conditions that vary from month to month and from year to year. In colder months, when houses need to heat, that is when significantly less sunlight is present, thus driving down the available energy to heat them.
This is why energy storage is crucial to the conversation regarding renewable energy, but other solutions might mitigate this problem if properly implemented. This is how aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) could help assist in cooling and heating buildings, reducing the reliance on other renewable energy sources.
How About Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage?
Energy storage is a difficult topic to address, as the technologies required to implement large-scale grid energy storage require, ironically, a lot of energy. This isn’t helped by the fact that hydrogen energy storage systems right now lose a significant amount of the energy stored.
This is why reducing the grid energy demand is important to implement renewable energy systems successfully. Aquifer thermal energy storage is an interesting form of renewable energy specific to the heating and cooling of buildings because it ties in directly with the seasons that affect solar energy so much.
It works by utilizing two wells connected to the same groundwater reservoir. Cold groundwater is pumped up to cool the building during the summer, then stored. The same process happens in winter but in reverse. Warm groundwater is pumped up into the building, then stored.
Aquifer thermal energy storage systems can also store excess heat from industrial operations, similar to the geothermal systems being deployed in decommissioned oil wells. This process can help bridge the gap between the seasonal availability of renewable energy while at the same time decarbonizing the heating and cooling sector.
This system is also useful because it can make energy infrastructure more resilient by reducing the demand currently placed upon it by heating and cooling. According to a study in Science Direct, Aquifer thermal energy storage systems could reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy by up to 40%.
New Tech can Help but not Solve Inherent Limits
The importance of renewable energy in the transition to a greener world cannot be understated. However, it is also important to recognize that there are limitations to the technology currently available.
Going forward, there are certainly ways that renewable energy, specifically solar, can become more efficient; the issue of seasonal availability will always be there. This is why alternative methods of addressing needs like heating and cooling are as important.
The issue of energy storage is also important because bridging the gap between availability and need is necessary for making renewable energy a viable alternative to our current fossil fuel energy generation system.