From challenge to solution: The role of LDES in sustainable energy

The LDES Consortium is a compelling initiative focused on advancing long-duration energy storage (LDES) technologies to enhance grid reliability and support the integration of renewable energy. In this interview, Dr. Alyssa McQuilling, CBI's Research & Innovation Manager, provides insights into the consortium's goals, the roles of its members, and the innovative solutions to push the boundaries of energy storage.

Can you give us a brief overview of the LDES Consortium and its primary goals?

Sure! The LDES Consortium is an exciting initiative that brings together diverse stakeholders to tackle the challenges of long-duration energy storage (LDES). The main aim is to overcome both technological and economic barriers to make LDES more viable and widespread.

What makes this consortium special is that it's 'technology agnostic ', meaning we're not biased towards any specific energy storage technology. We have experts from different energy storage technologies, such as chemical, mechanical, thermal, and all types of batteries, including lead and lithium. The idea is to address every aspect of the industry, from developing the workforce and managing the supply chain to creating policies and advancing technology, regardless of the specific technology used.

What roles do you and Dr. Matt Raiford, CBI's Technical Director, play within the LDES Consortium, and what are the 'tiger teams' you're involved with?

Matt and I are involved in several 'tiger teams' within the consortium. These teams are focused groups that tackle specific challenges related to long duration energy storage. Each team is dedicated to addressing a unique aspect of the LDES landscape.

Between the two of us, we're active in about eight tiger teams, where we attend meetings, provide feedback, and help refine the challenges and recommendations alongside other industry experts.

Uniting experts for energy innovation

How does LDES differ from other types of energy storage, and why is it important?

That's a great question. LDES stands out because it can store energy for more than ten hours, which is crucial for ensuring the grid's reliability. Some technologies are perfect for shorter durations, while others can handle much longer storage times, even up to seasonal storage.

This capability is especially important as we integrate more renewable energy, which can be unpredictable, into the grid. In simple terms, LDES helps balance supply and demand, ensuring enough energy is available when it's needed the most. This makes it a key player in creating a stable and sustainable energy system.

You're leading the Workforce Development team. What does that entail, and why is it crucial for the project?

I'm the industry advisor for the Workforce Development team, which is led by Hope Corsair at Oak Ridge National Lab. Our team's mission is to determine what skills and training are needed to build a strong workforce for the LDES industry. We've examined current workforce needs and are making recommendations to help scale the industry and prepare for future demands.

This builds on my previous work with the NAATBatt Education Subcommittee, where we focused on the educational needs of the battery industry. Ensuring we have a skilled workforce is essential for the success of LDES technologies.

What are some of the big challenges you face in making LDES more common, and how are you addressing them?

One of the biggest challenges we face is the cost. For instance, the current systems are primarily designed for shorter durations, making them less cost-effective for longer storage needs. Another challenge is scaling up the supply chain for these newer technologies, which haven't been widely deployed yet.

To address these, we're working on creating new market structures and incentives for long-duration energy storage. We're also confident that as the industry gains more experience, costs will come down, and these technologies will become more affordable.

Can you share a success story or milestone the LDES Consortium has achieved so far?

Absolutely! One of our early successes has been the release of initial recommendations from our tiger teams. These drafts are currently under review and will help guide the consortium's future activities.

We're also planning our first in-person consortium meeting in September in California, which is expected to bring together up to 300 attendees. It's a great opportunity to build momentum and collaboration.

Building a sustainable energy ecosystem

Sustainability and environmental impact are critical concerns. How do these advanced energy storage solutions help create a greener and more sustainable future?

LDES is crucial for maintaining grid reliability as we increase the use of renewable energy sources. By storing energy for longer periods, LDES helps balance the intermittency of resources like wind and solar. Technologies like lead batteries provide long duration storage and have established recycling processes, supporting a more sustainable energy ecosystem.

What potential do LDES technologies hold for transforming the energy landscape in developed and developing regions?

LDES has the potential to improve how we use renewable energy by making it more reliable and accessible. It can be integrated into large national grids as well as smaller microgrids, which are particularly beneficial in developing regions. This flexibility can support broader electrification and sustainable development goals globally.

Looking ahead, what impact do you think LDES will have on our everyday lives and the global energy landscape?

I believe that LDES will become a seamless part of our power grid, supporting decarbonization and electrification efforts. It will ensure we have reliable power whenever it's needed, helping to make our energy systems more resilient and sustainable. 

It will be interesting to see the development of new technologies and the lessons we can learn from existing ones to ensure that the industry's growth is sustainable. This starts from the extraction of raw materials, through manufacturing and the lifetime of the systems, all the way to the end of life and recycling/materials recovery.

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