With summer’s heat approaching, California’s plan for avoiding a repeat of last year’s blackouts hinges on a humble savior – the battery. Giant versions of the same technology that powers smart phones and cars are being plugged into the state’s electrical grid at breakneck speed, with California set to add more battery capacity this year than all of China. To learn more, read “California to Test Whether Big Batteries Can Stop Summer Blackouts.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet. 

Key Takeaways:

  • By August, California will have 1,700 megawatts of new battery capacity – enough to power 1.3 million homes and, in theory, avert a grid emergency like that of 2020.
  • The state’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 may require installing 48.8 gigawatts of energy storage, according to a report by three state agencies – more than five times the output of all the grid-scale batteries currently operating worldwide.
  • But batteries do have two major limitations – time and cost. Most of the battery packs now available are designed to run for just four hours at a stretch. While that makes them a good fit for California, where electricity supplies can be strained in early summer evenings after solar power shuts  down, batteries would not have prevented the multi-day outage that paralyzed Texas in February. A battery can only operate for so long before it needs to recharge.

Path to 100% Perspective:

California’s current plan without thermal generation would require an investment of $309 billion between 2021 and 2045 to add another 1,624 GWh of battery storage and electricity generation cost would jump to a sky-high 128 $ / MWh. However,  with Power-to-Gas and thermal generation as long-term energy would save the state $176 billion between 2021 and 2045 and electricity generation cost would be $50 / MWh in 2045. More batteries without thermal generation is not affordable and is not enough to create a resilient or reliable grid.

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash