Q. I’m confused about renewable energy storage. Last I checked, renewable energy was but a small fraction of total electricity generation on our grid. I don’t think we have ever generated SO much renewable energy at one time that it became necessary to choose between storing it or grounding it. Shouldn’t we be using absolutely every kilowatt-hour of renewable energy right when it’s generated? And am I incorrect in assuming that the necessity for storage won’t even arise for decades in the future? Christian B.
Los Alamitos, Calif.
A. Dearest Christian,
If only understanding the vast, high-voltage web of infrastructure we call the grid was as simple as flicking a switch. What seems so straightforward on our end — turn on the lights and bam, electricity! — is truly a complex system designed to move huge amounts of power staggering distances, all so that we can exercise our right to run the washing machine, dishwasher, and power drill all at the same time. You’re not alone in your confusion about the country’s power grid, or how renewable energy sources like solar and wind power plug into it. Allow me to shed some light on the subject. . . .