Often, important emerging technologies get caught up in misconstrued facts and misunderstandings of capacities and roles in an already technology-driven and confusing world. An example of this can be found in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, "Getting Real on Wind and Solar" by James Schlesinger and Robert Hirsch. It's great they included a reference to energy storage systems (ESS) as a necessary component of the smart grid architecture for renewable energy. And they're right that the wind doesn't always blow, the sun doesn't always shine — so having a stockpile of energy that can be tapped into on demand, and especially during high demand or "peak demand" hours, is very important to ensuring adequate energy is always available. But their main thesis that renewable energy can't be pursued without adding coal-based utility resources or without using hydroelectric dams as energy storage tanks is wrong.
Using today's readily available technologies, ESS can run without the support of a hydroelectric dam or a coal based utility. The NEMA Energy Storage Council includes companies that produce flow cell batteries, flywheel generators, batteries (lithium ion, lead acid, lead carbon, sodium sulphur, zinc bromine, vanadium redox, etc), thermal systems, concentrated solar panels; even Plug-in Hybrid Electrical Vehicles that show great potential as a distributed mass ESS. The list goes on and on and it will continue to grow as existing and emerging technologies vie for the top spot. While stationary (flywheel, flow cells, etc.) ESS does require a larger footprint in terms of space requirements and can be used in some cases as "spinning reserves" for hydroelectric dams; their value must not be unappreciated or misrepresented. Both stationary and mobile ESS (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles) provide a vastly untapped revolutionary resource with the ability to alleviate our present and rapidly growing energy crisis and ensure a future success towards building a "smart grid." ESS can provide solutions to current grid capacity issues, residential/ commercial/ industrial/ military back-up generation, load leveling, frequency response just to name a few."
It's important that NEMA continue to serve the role of advocate during these organizational periods where stakeholders grapple with the feat of learning where to go to for accurate and timely information.