Wednesday, June 28, 2017

States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon

A Portland General Electric energy storage system. (Credit: PGE/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Some states and electric power companies are rolling out a new weapon against fossil fuels — giant batteries.

A growing number of states are requiring large batteries to be used to store electricity to help expand wind and solar power.  The trend is catching on quickly as at least three states have created energy storage targets or incentives so far this year.

Lawmakers in New York passed a bill last week requiring the state to create an energy storage target. Nevada passed a bill incentivizing energy storage in May, and Maryland passed an energy storage tax credit in April.  Those measures follow California, Oregon, and Massachusetts, which have mandates for electricity storage in batteries.

Electric power plants have historically been America’s largest source of carbon pollution contributing to climate change.  Today, electric power plants that run on both coal and natural gas emit large volumes of carbon dioxide — the primary cause of global warming.

But as more wind farms and solar power plants are built to help reduce climate pollution, electric power companies encounter one of the fundamental challenges with renewables:  The flow of electricity from wind and solar farms isn’t steady — it fluctuates as the wind blows and the sun sets. Sometimes excess energy they produce goes to waste.

“We only produce solar electricity when the sun shines.  We consume energy 24/7.  We need to have means of supplying the electricity to consumers 24 hours a day.  That’s one of the basic roles of energy storage,” said Janet Joseph, vice president of innovation and strategy for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Batteries help solve that problem.
If batteries are used to capture renewable power as it is generated, electric companies can use that stored electricity when it is needed the most, usually during the day when air conditioners are blasting and businesses have all their lights on.  Today, electric power used for those high demand times comes from power plants running on natural gas.

Read more at States Betting on Giant Batteries to Cut Carbon

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