For as long as the electricity grid has been a fact of life, the necessity of a back-up power supply has been obvious. There are some items of electrically powered equipment that simply cannot be allowed to suddenly cut out. The most obvious example here is medical equipment in hospitals, electricity supplies in remote areas, and in military contexts. And for a long time, the obvious solution to this was gas-powered generators. With a supply of fuel and an internal combustion engine, reliance on any external source of electricity is eliminated. In many circumstances though, a generator is not a practical solution. It is here that batteries offer a solution.
Most essentially, batteries are sources of energy that is stored chemically. Historically, this has meant that, while they may be in some cases necessary, batteries offered a far less reliable source of energy than a generator could. This is simply because batteries have not always been the most efficient way to store energy for use in an emergency. Nevertheless, this is something that is fast changing. The big question is whether battery power could ever provide a reliable alternative to the grid. As things stand, those working at the cutting edge of battery technology certainly believe it could.
Foremost among the factors driving the development of more effective battery products has undoubtedly been ever more pressing environmental concerns. Consternation about over reliance on fossil fuels has led to the mass proliferation of sustainable energy technology such as solar panels, which have seen their cost massively reduced in recent years. The mass roll-out of the electric car has also increased the demand for batteries, as well as offering attractive incentives to encourage research programs to develop ever more efficient battery technologies.
With development as well funded as it currently is, optimistic speculation has it that batteries could one day offer a highly effective alternative power source to mains electricity. New battery technology is already a common sight in many households. Products such as the USB rechargeable lithium smart batteries produced by Utah company Pale Blue Earth are already finding many more applications about the household than batteries ever did previously. Things only seem to be going one way where this is concerned.
The Uninterruptable Power Source (UPS)
One of the ways in which batteries are already providing a solid energy source that is preferable to gas generators is in the concept of the uninterruptable power source (UPS). A UPS is essentially a battery pack that can power any number of electrical systems in the event of a mains shortage. The great advantage of the UPS is that whatever it is powering can switch to it seamlessly – fast enough, even, that the device doesn’t even turn off.
This constitutes the UPS’s main advantage over gas-powered generators and other alternative power sources. Moreover, it points the way towards more advanced battery power systems that could even power a whole household effectively in the absence of mains electricity.
Renewable Energy Storage
Another new battery technology that is threatening the dominance of grid electricity is one which works in tandem with renewable energy technologies such as solar panels. Renewable energy storage is a new battery technology that allows power generated from such sources to be effectively stored inside a portable and interchangeable battery. The allows the use of solar-generated power – for example – even when the sun is not shining.
Ultimately, grid power will be around for a while yet, but the emergence of these new technologies certainly suggests that the days of its unquestioned hegemony could well be numbered.