Researchers have made significant strides in new energy generation technologies. Yet, before renewable sources can make a significant contribution to our energy supply, similar strides will be needed in energy storage, making it the new holy grail.
“When it comes to renewable energy sources, there can be a mismatch between when power is available and when it’s needed,” said Tim Lieuwen, director of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute (SEI). He points to grid faults caused by temporary loss of wind and solar power during the day. “In contrast to conventional power plants where you can turn power on, off, up or down, you can’t dispatch solar or wind — storage is a key enabler for significant penetration of these non-dispatchable sources,” Lieuwen said.
Different challenges exist in the transportation sector, which accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. energy usage. Although there are a number of electric vehicles on the market, their limited range and high cost are obstacles to widespread adoption, which has researchers pursuing scalable ways to increase the power and energy density of electrochemical devices. “Storage is one of the critical issues required for electric vehicles to gain traction,” Lieuwen said.
At the SEI, Lieuwen coordinates energy work across campus. Georgia Tech stands out from many research universities for its systems analysis and ability to tackle large-scale energy challenges, Lieuwen observed. “We not only have deep domain expertise but also people who can think about plugging innovations into a bigger system. Having these people work side by side creates real synergy.”
Georgia Tech is participating in a number of high-profile projects sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE), including its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).