California is breaking green energy records. Now we need to find better ways to store that energy.

Yesterday, California achieved the astonishing feat of generating 80% of its daily power from renewable energy sources, but this news is often a mixed blessing that energy advocates need to understand.

Here’s why:

The problem is that there have been many times in the summer when the California Independent System Operator (ISO) has been overwhelmed with too much green energy production. When the “grid” starts producing too much energy on a hot summer day, the over-supply of electricity can cause blackouts.

Pie charts showing Tennessee Valley Authority energy sources, last 20 years. Source: TVA

As a result, California actually has to pay other states to accept our surplus energy to prevent rolling blackouts. Here’s a story on this in the LA Times

The solution:  Energy Storage – and why energy advocates like us to understand the concept. 

The next big push in sustainability for California is to become a pioneer in energy storage technology.  This technology could be vastly improved super-efficient batteries, such as Elon Musk’s “power wall,” or new improvements such as vanadium batteries. Other non-battery energy storage solutions may not come from the private sector because they involve the type of government coordination that built the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which is the USA’s largest power source.

The danger – more “carbon free” nuclear at the expense of “green” energy 
In the last 15 years, the TVA has nearly doubled its so-called “carbon free” nuclear energy portfolio in terawatts (one trillion watts) by increasing its reliance on nuclear energy. I expect this trend to continue nationally.  In 1976, California passed legislation forbidding new nuclear power plants until the industry develops a solution for the problem of Spent nuclear Fuel (SNF).
The moral of the story:  Those who save energy through conservation are smart.  Those who find a way to store energy cheaply are poised to make billions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *