California Adopts Energy Storage Targets

A decision has been handed down by regulators in the state of California for a requirement that the three largest utilities in the state get technology to store 1,325 MW of electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

The three utilities in question are Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. They provided opposition to the requirement arguing that it was too much to produce in too short a period of time. The argument was rejected by the commissioners.

There must be a progression of larger and larger amounts of storage procured by the three utilities between 2014 and 2020. The systems should then be installed by 2024. Separate procurement proposals for the first energy storage are to be filed by the utilities by March 1, 2014. The majority of storage systems currently available for consideration are batteries and compressed air energy storage (CAES) systems.

For the targets to be achieved it will be necessary to kick start the energy storage industry. While there are a few different alternatives currently in operation to some degree there is still no single energy storage method that is accepted and widely used for renewable energy sourced power.

There have been some experimental energy storage systems proposed and used in smaller scales but they have largely proven to be too expensive to be practical. There are more options in development that are becoming more cost effective. One of the solutions that appear to have some cause for optimism is the development of compressed air energy storage.

The news is good for startups such as LightSail Energy which is busy developing new technology. The aim (and expectation) is that it will be less expensive to store and deliver low-cost off-peak energy than it is to make it with a conventional peaker plant.

Another company that appears to offer a commercially viable storage solution is SustainX. This company is working on an isothermal compressed air storage system that is flexible enough to be placed anywhere and offers emission-free storage.

Large scale battery makers are the other obvious beneficiaries of the decision with those who are the most mature in the best position to maximize the opportunities.

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