Reflections from the Midwest Polar Vortex

If the grid relied exclusively on renewable energy – how much battery storage would we need to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing? 

 Energy analysts at Wood Mackenzie used the polar vortex that struck the Midwest United States earlier this year, when the sun didn’t shine and the wind didn’t blow, to find out. Their conclusion was that a grid reliant on 100% renewables (50% wind and 50% solar), would need to increase energy storage penetration from its current 11 gigawatts to 277.9 gigawatts. To put that in context, that’s more than double Wood Mackenzie’s current forecast in energy storage deployments in 2040. 

The graph to the right shows the role energy storage would have to play during a polar vortex with a 100% renewable grid.

Renewable energy is a popular topic these days – recent talk of a New Green Deal by Democrats would have the US transitioning to 100% renewable energy within the next ten years. Furthermore, three states and over 100 US cities have already made firm commitments to 100% renewable energy. But if and when these pledges turn into action, how does a 100% renewable grid respond to extreme conditions like a polar vortex? Without energy storage, solar and wind do not have the flexibility to handle extreme weather conditions and meet high demand. Nikola Power deploys energy storage projects across the country so that a future renewably powered grid can be flexible enough to handle high demand even when solar and wind production levels are low. 

 The Wood Mackenzie report later states that it will take more than lithium-ion batteries to meet increasing energy storage future needs and that developing technology will be essential going forward. In the event of a polar vortex, Nikola Power’s Intellect EMS software would allow it to forecast real time data, such as a lack of sunshine or wind, and use that data in order to optimize the battery’s value. Nikola is very hopeful that we one day see a grid powered by 100% renewables, and we believe that we have the technology to help make it a reality. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-21 at 1.47.26 PM.png
Samantha Kemper