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Energy storage: Five things you gotta know

Today let's take a quick glance at California's efforts to move energy storage technologies towards implementation.

Though many currently known storage technologies work, the nut to crack is whether they are worth the risk in capital investment and are operationally cost-effective vis-à-vis non-storage alternatives.

Exactly one week ago, the California Public Utility Commission held a workshop on energy storage and heard from three sources on current research. (This action was the result of an order instituting rulemaking pursuant to Assembly Bill 2514 to "consider the adoption of procurement targets for viable and cost-effective energy storage systems.")

1) California is leading the nation with 18 projects valued at nearly $1.3 billion, a cost shared by the U.S. Department of Energy (one-third) and various California utilities and vendors (nearly two-thirds), plus $13.2 million from PIER (Public Interest Energy Research). This fact was presented by Avtar Bining, program manager, California Energy Commission Energy Storage Program.

2) A major report is due this summer by the Energy Storage Vision Project, led by The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at Berkeley Law School at the University of California, according to Ethan Elkind, climate change research fellow at the Vision Project.

3) A decade is needed to develop a battery from research to commercialization, if major capital investment is available and the choice of battery technology is dependent on the application, according to staff scientist Venkat Srinivasan at The Battery Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

4) "Regulation energy management" can provide additional functionality to address the limitations of storage resources, according to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which delivered an overview of the topic at the CPUC workshop.

5) The three key barriers to expanding energy storage in California include regulations and utility processes that preclude energy storage solutions, costs and lack of awareness of the benefits of storage, according to a July 2010 report, "The Power of Storage," by the law schools at the University of California at Los Angeles and U.C. Berkeley.

6) Those benefits include the economic benefits of helping shift demand to off-peak hours and operational benefits of improved power quality, reliable backup power and reduced need for peak generation capacity, among others, according to "Electric Energy Storage: An Assessment of Potential Barriers and Opportunities," authored by the policy and planning division of the CPUC.

Okay, I lied. That's six things you "gotta know." I recommend that you click on the link to the California Public Utility Commission workshop on energy storage for a wealth of detail on current technology, implementation strategies and barriers to uptake.

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily




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