PNNL Solving the Energy Storage Challenge

In conversations about renewable energy sources like solar power and wind energy — whether here at the Energy Department or among industry leaders, scientists and students — energy storage is repeatedly identified as the tipping point between intermittency and reliability.

At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, Morris Bullock and Dan DuBois are leading the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, where they’re tackling this storage conundrum.

Recently, PNNL teamed up with Northwest Public Television to produce a video on this breakthrough effort, “Saving the Sun for a Rainy Day.” You can check out the video below and watch PNNL researchers discuss the challenges and progress being made in converting intermittent, renewable energy sources from wind farm and solar power into liquid fuels.

So, why is energy storage so important?

As you heard in the video, wind turbines cannot produce energy on still days, and solar panels cannot produce at night. In order to maintain reliability from renewables, energy must be stored for when power cannot be generated.

One solution is to store energy as fuel, which has a much higher energy density than batteries or other mechanical devices. To do this, the PNNL scientists are harnessing lessons learned from photosynthesis. They’re working on catalysts that will help convert electrical energy from renewable sources into chemical bonds in fuels and can also convert it back to electricity.

By Niketa Kumar, Public Affairs Specialist with the Office of Public Affairs at the Department of Energy.