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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Energy Delivery and Storage Basics

Helping secure a clean energy future for the nation and the world isn't just about reducing energy usage or producing clean energy. It is about how energy moves from the power source to the end user. Moving the energy from point A to point B, or storing it at the site where it will be used, are related to using our energy most effectively and wisely.

The demand for electricity is seldom constant over time. Many renewable resources — wind and solar power, for example — are variable, i.e., they are not available all of the time. Storing energy from the renewable source allows supply to more closely match demand. For example, a storage system attached to a wind turbine could store energy captured around the clock — whenever the wind blows — and then dispatch that energy into the higher-priced midday market. And energy storage enables solar electricity to be used both day and night.

Distributed energy (DE) technologies are playing an increasingly important role in the nation's energy portfolio. They can be used to meet base load power, peaking power, backup power, remote power, power quality, as well as cooling and heating needs.

DE refers to a variety of small, modular power-generating technologies that can be combined with energy management and storage systems and used to improve the operation of the electricity delivery system, whether or not those technologies are connected to an electricity grid.

And what's all this buzz about the coming "hydrogen economy"? Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. It can be produced from a wide variety of domestic resources using a number of different technologies. The element also has very high energy for its weight, but very low energy for its volume, so new technology is needed to store and transport it. Fuel cells harness the chemical energy of hydrogen to generate electricity without combustion or pollution. And fuel cell technology is still in early development, needing improvements in efficiency and durability. Here you'll learn about advanced hydrogen and fuel cell technologies that can eventually reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve our air quality, and maintain our economic competitiveness.