California’s New Energy Storage System Can Help Power the Region’s Electric Grid

Op-Ed: California’s giant new batteries kept the lights on during the heat wave of 2010

The power of energy storage is still so new that it is impossible to predict its effects, but already a new battery system in Southern California, a new way to charge it, and two new ways to store it are making the region’s grid more reliable and, at the same time, cleaner and more efficient.

The big energy storage systems, now being built, can help power the region’s electric grid for months and years, without consuming too much electricity and without impacting supply and demand.

Southern California, a state that is already one of the most energy-efficient in the nation, can still meet its climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 12% below 1990 levels by 2020. But it depends heavily on renewable energy, both on- and off-grid. But with more than a 1,500 megawatt-hour of renewable energy additions annually to its power grid, the state is also one of the fastest growing energy consumers in the U.S.

This story, “California’s New Energy Storage” was produced as part of Environment & Energy Daily, a sister publication of E&E.

California is one large energy consumer.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the state consumed about 40% of all U.S. energy during 2009. That’s why its grid power was down for nearly two weeks between January 1, 2010 and February 6, 2010.

The power went out not because of the usual summer-long heat wave but because of the new energy storage system: the Big Switch.

Big Switch

It’s the country’s first utility-scale battery storage system. An unprecedented expansion of a technology that is still in the research and development phase, California’s new battery storage system is built in cooperation with Sandia National Laboratories and the University of California in San Diego.

The system, which has enough capacity to power the state’s entire electric grid for days or weeks, is located in the state

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