Can New Storage Technologies Help California Go Solar?


Wider integration of solar and wind power depends in part on the development of better large-scale battery technologies.

A major challenge for states like California that are trying to meet renewable portfolio standards (RPS), standards which dictate the minimum percentage of electricity that a state needs to derive from renewable sources, is to find energy storage options that are both affordable and effective.

The main issue is that renewable technologies such as Los Angeles solar and wind power generate a lot of electricity at certain times of the day, and none at others. Particularly with wind energy, the electrical grid needs to be able to handle massive fluctuations in electrical production in a way that it is currently incapable of doing. This is due to the absence of battery technology that can be scaled to such sizes that it can handle gigawatt-hours of energy.

Reuters reports that California Governor Jerry Brown told attendees at the InterSolar Conference in San Francisco that Californians can’t simply rely on sunlight for power, saying that “we’ve got to bottle the sunlight.”

Fortunately, many companies are entering a heated race to develop batteries that can handle large amounts of grid electricity. These include LG Chem, a large-scale battery maker, in addition to more well-known companies such as General Electric, and investors Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Brown put forward a proposal that would increase the state’s commitment to funding battery tech, which many see as the principle obstacle to wider integration of solar energy into the electric grid.

The more progress these firms can make on this front, the more Californians will be able to benefit from this great energy source.