The city of Tehachapi, near the crest of a mountain pass in southern California, is a bridge between the Mojave Desert and the San Joaquin Valley a blustery area serving as an ideal site for a wind farm.
Its also the site of the Tehachapi Energy Storage Project, an experiment in storing wind power in giant lithium-ion batteries, so far the largest energy storage project of its kind in North America. The project is Southern California Edisons $50 million effort to demonstrate how energy storage can improve the regions power grid and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With that and similar projects in the works, California is quickly becoming the U.S. leader in energy storage after the states 2013 mandate that its largest utilities have 1,325 megawatts roughly enough for 1 million homes of electricity storage operating by 2024 as one step to fight climate change. Storage will help the state reach its climate goal of having 50 percent of its electricity supplied by renewables by 2030.
With the energy storage mandate, and a roadmap the state released last week suggesting how it can help clear the way for energy storage across its power grid, California is demonstrating how batteries could be used to modernize the electric grid and help solar and wind power integrate into it.
Energy storage systems are able to charge at night when GHG emissions are low or can be charged directly from renewable sources, such as solar or wind, and then injected into the grid later during peak demand times or other critical times, Anne Gonzales, spokeswoman for California Independent System Operator, which operates the states power grid, said.
Energy storage technology is too new for California ISO to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions reductions it could bring about, she said.
Batteries may also be helpful for reducing emissions and bringing renewable power to homes because electricity stored in batteries can feed into the grid to help smooth out the intermittent power production from wind and solar, which generate electricity only when the wind blows or the sun shines.
Todays grid and power plants generally arent designed to respond to the sometimes quick fluctuations in wind and solar generation. Batteries can mitigate that because they can respond very quickly, Mark Irwin, director of energy storage for SCE, said.
The Tehachapi project, designed to supply 8 megawatts of power, or enough to provide power to more than 1,600 homes, will be spending the next two years demonstrating the ways energy storage may benefit the power grid.
Tehachapi is testing multiple benefits of battery storage, including easing grid congestion at the transmission level, smoothing out intermittency of renewables and storing power and outputting it another time, SCE spokesman David Song said, adding that stored power in batteries can prevent the need for some new power plants.
SCE has contracted with three other companies to build smaller battery energy storage projects in Southern California totaling more than 235 megawatts. The states other major utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric and San Diego Gas and Electric, also have energy storage projects in the works, but are smaller or not as far along in development as SCEs.
Energy storage has its detractors who say there are better ways to integrate renewables into the power grid than investing in batteries.
Source: Climate Central
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