March 24, 2015

California’s Push For Clean Energy Has A Problem: No Place To Store It

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March 23, 2015 | LA Times | Chris Megerian

In his State of the State address earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown announced an ambitious goal: half of the state’s power will come from renewable sources by 2030. The current target is one-third by 2020.

On any given California day, wind and solar generation generally peaks earlier than demand. The LA Times reports that without a way to store all of that off-peak generation, it will be a challenge for the state to meet its renewable energy goals. Check out this handy “duck curve” doodle graph by Inside Energy’s Jordan Wirfs-Brock for more on California’s changing electricity supply.

Governor Brown acknowledged the problem in a recent speech, saying, “You get a lot of energy in certain parts of the day, and you have so much electricity you can’t use it. So you have to do something with it. You need storage.”

California requires the state’s three biggest utility companies build more storage over the next several years. But if the state actually meets the governor’s new renewable goals, grid operators say the current required storage won’t be enough.

The LA Times writes that according to Keith Casey, a vice president at the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state’s electrical grid, there’s going to be a lot of “green power that needs a home.”

A storage solution is not impossible. There are many potential options for capturing renewables: batteries, compressed air, frozen water, and as Inside Energy’s Leigh Paterson reported, salt caves. But, for now, they are either too expensive or too experimental.