Energy 2.0

Build Thermal Storage, Not Power Plants

Posted on: May 20, 2008

The following is part of a report written by: Scot M. Duncan,

The concepts discussed herein apply to any utility, state or region facing pollution issues, power generation capacity shortages, or transmission and distribution congestion and having the desire to improve power plant efficiency and reduce the need to build new power plants.


There is no one silver bullet, there are many proven technologies and business models that applied collectively or individually can bring real improvements. One such technology that can provide immediate benefits is Thermal Energy Storage (TES).


Thermal Energy Storage is the simple process of cooling (or freezing) water during the evening hours and storing it for use the next day to air condition large commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.

TES is the rough equivalent of building electricity generating power plants in the sense that TES taps the unused capacity in our existing power plants at night when they are typically operating at very low output levels.

Using TES in lieu of building new power plants allows for an effective increase in capacity during the peak usage hours, without any of the negative environmental impacts associated with building new power plants.

TES simultaneously increases the efficiency of existing transmission and distribution facilities in addition to the benefits it provides for generation plants.

With properly crafted incentives and rate structures, the private sector could be enticed to contribute a significant percentage of the capital required to build a very large number of TES systems, essentially subsidizing other ratepayers.


TES is a fully-proven technology that can improve power plant efficiency by 20% to 43%, improve cooling system efficiency by up to 25%, and reduce cooling system related peak electrical demands by 60% to 80% on the hottest summer afternoons, by shifting major air conditioning related electrical loads to the night instead of the afternoon.


Properly designed, implemented and commissioned TES systems provide long term benefits to all ratepayers and the environment. It is a simple concept on its face – if a power plant can be made more energy efficient, it will use less fuel. If it uses less fuel, it will produce fewer emissions and the environment will be improved from the resulting reduction in harmful greenhouse gasses, acid rain, and toxic pollutants such as mercury. Sustainable peak demand reduction will reduce the potential for costly brownouts or blackouts as well as reducing the need for expensive infrastructure improvements.

This improves the reliability and affordability of electric power for all ratepayers.


One Engineer has been quoted as saying “Think of TES like a 1,000 MW power plant that consumes no natural resources, and reduces pollution from other power plants, and you can persuade building owners to pick up half the cost of the system that benefits all of the ratepayers.”


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