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Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) Jerry_Brown_Renewable_Energy

Published on March 2nd, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer

26

California Proposes First Renewable Energy Storage Requirements

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March 2nd, 2010 by  

Yesterday Attorney General Jerry Brown  announced a completely new kind of renewable energy legislation, introduced by State Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D) – designed to add more renewable energy storage to the grid.

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You’ve heard of Renewable Energy Standards. These are (state level only, so far) rules that require that electric utilities add more renewable energy every year, in the 24 states that have them.

Using the legislation, four Northeast States have been able to reduce their greenhouse gases on an EU scale – to below 1990 levels by contributing to the build-out of about 17 Gigawatts of renewable energy along with neighboring Canadian provinces. Other states, Like Michigan, are on track to do so with elegant policy design that gets solar rooftops down to as little as $6,000 each.

Reducing greenhouse gas levels below 1990 levels simply takes replacing the dirty 19th century energy they used to have on the grid with more clean renewable 21st century energy. That’s what passing Renewable Energy Standards does: it forces utilities to replace old power plants that they have grandfathered in to evade Clean Air Act rules for the last 40 years, and add more low carbon electricity.

But California might be the first state to implement another necessity borne from adding more renewable energy to the grid: adding more storage for renewable energy. In a sense, the storage industry will the equivalent of the 19th century railroad industry. Railroads had to be built in order to cheaply bring coal to coal-fired 19th century power plants that were near the cities of those times, and even to stoke homeowners individual fireplaces. Like the railroad, the storage industry will be a trillion dollar industry.

AB 2514 would require utilities to incorporate energy storage in their distribution networks. The rules will mandate storage equal to 2.25% of daytime peak power by 2014 and 5% of daytime peak power by 2020.

This bill will provide the first real boost to the renewable energy storage industry, as it secures a clean energy future for California. To bring 2.25% of peak demand in storage online, Jon Petersen estimates that (with 135 MW a year of storage needed) $200 million each year will need to be invested, along with the new jobs that all that new investment brings.

The legislation dovetails nicely not only with California’s needs (and the world’s)  but it immediately amortizes the $620 million from the Obama Administration’s  advanced grid awards from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)  invested by the newly energized Department of Energy in a variety of innovative new storage technologies.

Some examples:

For Baseload Wind Cheaper than Fossil Fuels

Storing Renewable Energy in Boxes of Air

Top ARPA-E Funding Goes to Renewable Storage in “Liquid Battery”

Metal-Air Battery With 11 Times the Energy at Half the Cost?

Pump Hydro Underground to Store Wind Power

Storage is critical, because as PG&E’s Jonathan Marshall told me “There have been times that wind turbines at Tehachapi have actually had to be turned off at night, because power going into the grid causes damage if it’s not used.” PG&E was awarded $25 million of that $620 million advanced grid funding. California Gets Smart-Grid Funds to Bottle Wind.

The legislation will also tend to favor, and help along the implementation of those solar technologies that include storage, (typically solar thermal using heliostats) such as SolarReserve; which has 7 hours of night time storage in salt.

Source: Jon Petersen at Seeking Alpha

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



  • http://www.yesonsolar.com fireofenergy

    Mandating storage is good IF it does any good. Paying thousands of dollars to store a kWh, though, is just plain stupid. Mandating research is far better as we need to get prices down to at least $50 per kWh…

    Oh, we already have done that! Yes, it’s call heat storage (in molten salts). Of course we need to heat it up with solar power towers… This is where the research needs to go, to figure out how to make the heliostats on robotic assembly lines. We already know how to make the efficient Brayton gas turbine, like duh…

    Sure, governments are needed to kick start things like the freeway system but they need to crank out storage in the cheap… or industry will never adopt. Unless we put a high price on carbon which may, instead, throw us into the next dark age.

    These people are supposed to be smarter than that… C’mon!

  • http://www.yesonsolar.com fireofenergy

    Mandating storage is good IF it does any good. Paying thousands of dollars to store a kWh, though, is just plain stupid. Mandating research is far better as we need to get prices down to at least $50 per kWh…

    Oh, we already have done that! Yes, it’s call heat storage (in molten salts). Of course we need to heat it up with solar power towers… This is where the research needs to go, to figure out how to make the heliostats on robotic assembly lines. We already know how to make the efficient Brayton gas turbine, like duh…

    Sure, governments are needed to kick start things like the freeway system but they need to crank out storage in the cheap… or industry will never adopt. Unless we put a high price on carbon which may, instead, throw us into the next dark age.

    These people are supposed to be smarter than that… C’mon!

  • Jack Ellis

    It seems the City of Austin has found a pretty creative solution to the challenge of capturing off-peak renewable energy that doesn’t require any storage mandates. There are a number of other central cooling systems around the country, including Las Vegas, Chicago, and Nashville. Large metropolitan areas with concentrations of commercial office space are ideal for this sort of thing. In many cases, old, inefficient chiller plants could also be replaced with more modern, highly efficient systems that use half as much energy.

    http://www.renewablesbiz.com/article/10/03/no-city-limits

    http://www.renewablesbiz.com/article/10/03/no-city-limits

  • Jack Ellis

    It seems the City of Austin has found a pretty creative solution to the challenge of capturing off-peak renewable energy that doesn’t require any storage mandates. There are a number of other central cooling systems around the country, including Las Vegas, Chicago, and Nashville. Large metropolitan areas with concentrations of commercial office space are ideal for this sort of thing. In many cases, old, inefficient chiller plants could also be replaced with more modern, highly efficient systems that use half as much energy.

    http://www.renewablesbiz.com/article/10/03/no-city-limits

    http://www.renewablesbiz.com/article/10/03/no-city-limits

  • Sam Jaffe

    Jack,

    Unlike other commenters, I think your points are thoughtful and well-put. However, I disagree with you. Utilities are not private companies in the traditional sense. They have been granted the right of monopoly by the government in return to allowing themselves to be heavily regulated by that same government. Thus it’s a fallacy to say that government has no right to regulate or mandate changes in the utility industry. In the end, it’s the utilities that have the most to gain from storage (other solutions to the problems presented by intermittent renewable energy are usually more expensive). Thus an RPS for storage helps the utilities as much as it hurts them.

    One other point on the ethanol issue: Ask an economist about the impact of ethanol on food prices and you would be very surprised by his or her answer. Ethanol production and the 2007 spike in food prices (along with a spike in almost every commodity) were correlative but not causative. We produce as much ethanol today as we did in 2007 and yet food prices are down by 30-50% from that year’s highs. I’m not a proponent of corn ethanol (I would argue vociferously against expanding its production beyond what we make today), but it’s wrong to say that ethanol caused the food price spike in 2007.

  • Sam Jaffe

    Jack,

    Unlike other commenters, I think your points are thoughtful and well-put. However, I disagree with you. Utilities are not private companies in the traditional sense. They have been granted the right of monopoly by the government in return to allowing themselves to be heavily regulated by that same government. Thus it’s a fallacy to say that government has no right to regulate or mandate changes in the utility industry. In the end, it’s the utilities that have the most to gain from storage (other solutions to the problems presented by intermittent renewable energy are usually more expensive). Thus an RPS for storage helps the utilities as much as it hurts them.

    One other point on the ethanol issue: Ask an economist about the impact of ethanol on food prices and you would be very surprised by his or her answer. Ethanol production and the 2007 spike in food prices (along with a spike in almost every commodity) were correlative but not causative. We produce as much ethanol today as we did in 2007 and yet food prices are down by 30-50% from that year’s highs. I’m not a proponent of corn ethanol (I would argue vociferously against expanding its production beyond what we make today), but it’s wrong to say that ethanol caused the food price spike in 2007.

  • Jeff

    Make all the excuses you want Jack. You want a real free market? End ALL subsidies. It’s that simple. We can go back and forth all day on the specifics of government support. But just end it all. If you truly believe in a free market, then end it all. Let the market decide.

    As far as not being convinced about health risks, well, it’s really just common sense. You don’t pour mercury into your drinking water, do you? You don’t inhale the gases from your tailpipe, do you? Why not? Ah, because it would make you sick. So why is it OK to disregard mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants or emissions from our cars? It’s not.

    As far as externalities, the liquidation of natural capital is very real too.

    Ecosystem services have a real value. Despite the fact that it would be nearly impossible to put a price tag on them. Which is the reason people like you often question externalities. I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t be convinced that things like regulation of atmosphere and climate, the cycling of nutrients and water, pollination, control of pests and diseases, and the maintenance of biodiversity are worth trillions annually. And I suspect you would be perfectly happy to never see this value reflected on a balance sheet. Which, for the most part, it never has.

    At the end of the day, there is absolutely nothing I could possibly say to convince you that your wrong on this issue. I could show you a ton of data, and you still wouldn’t be convinced. Because you don’t want to be. But feel free to do your own research. If you legitimately want to know the truth, you will find it. But I’m not going to entertain this any longer. I’m very busy furthering the progress of our new energy economy. Which, whether you like it or not, will be heavily weighted in clean, economically-superior renewable energy.

  • Jeff

    Make all the excuses you want Jack. You want a real free market? End ALL subsidies. It’s that simple. We can go back and forth all day on the specifics of government support. But just end it all. If you truly believe in a free market, then end it all. Let the market decide.

    As far as not being convinced about health risks, well, it’s really just common sense. You don’t pour mercury into your drinking water, do you? You don’t inhale the gases from your tailpipe, do you? Why not? Ah, because it would make you sick. So why is it OK to disregard mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants or emissions from our cars? It’s not.

    As far as externalities, the liquidation of natural capital is very real too.

    Ecosystem services have a real value. Despite the fact that it would be nearly impossible to put a price tag on them. Which is the reason people like you often question externalities. I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t be convinced that things like regulation of atmosphere and climate, the cycling of nutrients and water, pollination, control of pests and diseases, and the maintenance of biodiversity are worth trillions annually. And I suspect you would be perfectly happy to never see this value reflected on a balance sheet. Which, for the most part, it never has.

    At the end of the day, there is absolutely nothing I could possibly say to convince you that your wrong on this issue. I could show you a ton of data, and you still wouldn’t be convinced. Because you don’t want to be. But feel free to do your own research. If you legitimately want to know the truth, you will find it. But I’m not going to entertain this any longer. I’m very busy furthering the progress of our new energy economy. Which, whether you like it or not, will be heavily weighted in clean, economically-superior renewable energy.

  • Albert

    Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. I think renewable energy using sun’s energy is mostly preferred by homeowners who pursue living green. Solar control windows tints moderates the sunlight entering your home while balancing the room temperature and capable of blocking up to 99% of UV rays . “Green” oriented sites such as http://www.TintBuyer.com are also doing their share in helping others in pursuing green living. They discuss how window tints can be labeled as one of the most effective ways to conserve energy consumption, in our home, office or car, it is a practical way to save money from energy bills while caring for the environment. Window tints are cost-effective, energy-efficient and definitely eco-friendly.

  • Albert

    Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. I think renewable energy using sun’s energy is mostly preferred by homeowners who pursue living green. Solar control windows tints moderates the sunlight entering your home while balancing the room temperature and capable of blocking up to 99% of UV rays . “Green” oriented sites such as http://www.TintBuyer.com are also doing their share in helping others in pursuing green living. They discuss how window tints can be labeled as one of the most effective ways to conserve energy consumption, in our home, office or car, it is a practical way to save money from energy bills while caring for the environment. Window tints are cost-effective, energy-efficient and definitely eco-friendly.

  • John

    Jack,

    In the absence of public policy supporting renewable energy, there would be no renewable energy, despite the many imperfections in policy. I’m all for making policy the best that it can be, but focusing on technical issues alone is a common and understandable mistake of technical experts in any field. Political constraints are real and they matter a great deal. But just because the political constraints result in a technically suboptimal policy doesn’t mean the policy has no benefit.

    I’m an economist, not an engineer. But it seems to me that while energy storage may not be needed now or in the near future, it will eventually be needed. At some point the variability of energy entering the grid from renewable sources won’t be manageable using price alone (in principle it could be if we allowed extreme variations in price, but again there’s politics — the political system will not tolerate extreme variations in price, quite understandably).

    So if storage is eventually going to be needed, how do we fund development of storage technologies and gain practical experience in their application? Ideally, the federal government would fund basic science and a gradual increase in a carbon tax would create the economic incentive for utilities to do more applied R&D. But the federal government has checked out, so that’s not possible. Some policymakers in CA would like to do something, but CA is also fairly dysfunctional. A policy lever that is available, even though it’s far from optimal, is this type of requirement. It’s imprecise, it will result in some inefficiency, but it will potentially provide an impetus to improve energy storage technology.

    Regarding your ethanol example — I think that’s a good example of how a flawed policy still adds value relative to doing nothing at all. Yes, there were unintended consequences, but it was the first awkward step on the road towards making ethanol a potential substitute for gasoline. GM makes cars that can use both gas and ethanol, there is a limited distribution network for ethanol — those are important first steps. The next step will be to move away from food-based ethanol to non-food sources, and that is happening now. That second step could not have happened without the first step. When there’s no chicken, and no egg, trying to cobble together one or the other is a messy process. But it’s still a worthwhile process.

  • John

    Jack,

    In the absence of public policy supporting renewable energy, there would be no renewable energy, despite the many imperfections in policy. I’m all for making policy the best that it can be, but focusing on technical issues alone is a common and understandable mistake of technical experts in any field. Political constraints are real and they matter a great deal. But just because the political constraints result in a technically suboptimal policy doesn’t mean the policy has no benefit.

    I’m an economist, not an engineer. But it seems to me that while energy storage may not be needed now or in the near future, it will eventually be needed. At some point the variability of energy entering the grid from renewable sources won’t be manageable using price alone (in principle it could be if we allowed extreme variations in price, but again there’s politics — the political system will not tolerate extreme variations in price, quite understandably).

    So if storage is eventually going to be needed, how do we fund development of storage technologies and gain practical experience in their application? Ideally, the federal government would fund basic science and a gradual increase in a carbon tax would create the economic incentive for utilities to do more applied R&D. But the federal government has checked out, so that’s not possible. Some policymakers in CA would like to do something, but CA is also fairly dysfunctional. A policy lever that is available, even though it’s far from optimal, is this type of requirement. It’s imprecise, it will result in some inefficiency, but it will potentially provide an impetus to improve energy storage technology.

    Regarding your ethanol example — I think that’s a good example of how a flawed policy still adds value relative to doing nothing at all. Yes, there were unintended consequences, but it was the first awkward step on the road towards making ethanol a potential substitute for gasoline. GM makes cars that can use both gas and ethanol, there is a limited distribution network for ethanol — those are important first steps. The next step will be to move away from food-based ethanol to non-food sources, and that is happening now. That second step could not have happened without the first step. When there’s no chicken, and no egg, trying to cobble together one or the other is a messy process. But it’s still a worthwhile process.

  • Jack Ellis

    I’m not surprised at the reactions. A debate informed by facts is healthy – we can all learn from it.

    First, since I neglected to do so in my original post, I’ll point out that I do support development of renewable energy. I sit on an industry body that’s working out how to reliably and cost-effectively integrate wind and solar into the power grid. I also sit on an industry steering group that’s trying to assess the operational impacts of renewable energy production. My position is that the industry has to figure out how to make renewables work in a cost-effective manner because if they don’t, politicians and regulators will. I am not employed by a utility and I like to think I know a thing or two about the power business after working in it for nearly 40 years. However I am opposed to developing renewable energy at breakneck speed without regard to the cost or the impact on service reliability.

    Jeff points out that there is no free market in energy. True. However subsidies for plant and equipment in the form of depreciation allowances are equally available to fossil and renewable projects. Fossil fuels are entitled to depletion allowances that renewable resources are not, while renewable projects are entitled to tax credits that are not available to fossil developers. It would be helpful if Jeff could point to analyses that compare the value of depletion allowance and other fossil fuel subsidies with the PTC and ITC subsidies in terms of their impact per unit of electricity production. If there are other points of comparison, I think we’d all be interested in those sources as well.

    Jeff, it would also be helpful for all of us if you could provide some specific references to analyses of the costs of externalities and how these values compare for fossil and renewable energy production. I’ve heard the externality argument made for more than 30 years, mostly regarding petroleum. If you cite health risks, I confess I’m going to be very skeptical because these claims are hard to prove in the face of increasing life expectancy without conducting some rather unethical experiments.

    One of the reasons I’m opposed to mandates is because they tend to be poorly thought out. A prime example is ethanol in motor fuels. It was originally proposed as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and who could argue with that rationale? Had policymakers and their advisors been a little more thoughtful, they might have anticipated the worldwide spike in food prices that caused widespread social unrest, and researchers might have had time to understand that using an energy intensive food crop like corn to make ethanol has little or no net impact on petroleum consumption. Rushing into the ethanol mandate has cost consumers and taxpayers billions. Have the results been worth the costs? I don’t think so.

    In the case of storage, a portfolio standard might undermine the economic case for electric vehicles and other forms of distributed storage that could be owned by customers rather than utilities or third parties. I don’t think the answer is necessarily straightforward and it ought to be addressed before the California legislature acts rather than later. If you think storage is really necessary, please explain why and provide some analysis to support your claim. I’ll provide an example of the kind of analysis I think is worthwhile by explaining why it might not be necessary and inviting all of you to tell me why I’m wrong.

    California will require about 90 billion kilowatthours of renewable energy in 2020 to meet the state mandate. Based on the $1500/kW price of sodium sulfur batteries that are preferred for grid applications, about $4.5 billion in investment will be required to meet the proposed 5% target for storage in 2020, for which customers will pay around $700 million per year in their electric rates. If the investment in storage avoids rejecting 1% of renewable energy production in 2020, the cost amounts to 70 cents per kilowatthour, or about 5 times the average retail price in California. Even solar PV production, which costs around 25 cents per kilowatthour, is a cheaper alternative. Now if the grid operator had to reject 10% of potential renewable output for lack of storage, I might have a different view. And in fact, I hope to find out whether that’s likely to be the case tomorrow.

    Charles, I’m aware of the value stream argument. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to sell the same production capability from any supply resource more than once – twice if you include capacity. If storage is providing voltage support, it can’t also sell energy because once it does, the voltage benefit is gone. The same goes for ancillary services – storage output that’s devoted to regulation can’t be used to sell energy at the same time. Therefore, you can only capture the benefit of one value stream at any point in time for a given unit of production capacity. This isn’t unique to storage – the same holds true for thermal plants. Moreover, assuming no losses and under the best economic case I can construct, a device, independent of its technology, that can store six hours of energy has to cost much less than it does today in order to make economic sense.

    John, I agree there’s a difference between optimal policy and feasible policy. Where we might disagree is whether politicians and regulators are competent enough to craft either one. When it comes to energy, California has provided some extraordinary leadership, and it has produced an equal number of extraordinary disasters. Having watched the process unfold for more than two thirds of my working life, I’m not optimistic that the proposed legislation has been carefully thought through.

    Finally, I would point out that the public eventually has to pay for all of this and they’re not in a paying mood right now. I’ll assert that electricity is priced in a way that encourages waste and discourages efficiency and demand management. Regulators know how to set efficient prices but they are justifiably afraid of a consumer revolt if they move too far too fast. If the planet is in imminent danger of dying, that event is still beyond the time horizon of those who struggle every day to feed, clothe and shelter their families. An optimal policy might require that we fix everything right away, but ignoring public sentiment by moving too fast and without regard to the cost is not economically, politically or socially feasible.

  • Jack Ellis

    I’m not surprised at the reactions. A debate informed by facts is healthy – we can all learn from it.

    First, since I neglected to do so in my original post, I’ll point out that I do support development of renewable energy. I sit on an industry body that’s working out how to reliably and cost-effectively integrate wind and solar into the power grid. I also sit on an industry steering group that’s trying to assess the operational impacts of renewable energy production. My position is that the industry has to figure out how to make renewables work in a cost-effective manner because if they don’t, politicians and regulators will. I am not employed by a utility and I like to think I know a thing or two about the power business after working in it for nearly 40 years. However I am opposed to developing renewable energy at breakneck speed without regard to the cost or the impact on service reliability.

    Jeff points out that there is no free market in energy. True. However subsidies for plant and equipment in the form of depreciation allowances are equally available to fossil and renewable projects. Fossil fuels are entitled to depletion allowances that renewable resources are not, while renewable projects are entitled to tax credits that are not available to fossil developers. It would be helpful if Jeff could point to analyses that compare the value of depletion allowance and other fossil fuel subsidies with the PTC and ITC subsidies in terms of their impact per unit of electricity production. If there are other points of comparison, I think we’d all be interested in those sources as well.

    Jeff, it would also be helpful for all of us if you could provide some specific references to analyses of the costs of externalities and how these values compare for fossil and renewable energy production. I’ve heard the externality argument made for more than 30 years, mostly regarding petroleum. If you cite health risks, I confess I’m going to be very skeptical because these claims are hard to prove in the face of increasing life expectancy without conducting some rather unethical experiments.

    One of the reasons I’m opposed to mandates is because they tend to be poorly thought out. A prime example is ethanol in motor fuels. It was originally proposed as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and who could argue with that rationale? Had policymakers and their advisors been a little more thoughtful, they might have anticipated the worldwide spike in food prices that caused widespread social unrest, and researchers might have had time to understand that using an energy intensive food crop like corn to make ethanol has little or no net impact on petroleum consumption. Rushing into the ethanol mandate has cost consumers and taxpayers billions. Have the results been worth the costs? I don’t think so.

    In the case of storage, a portfolio standard might undermine the economic case for electric vehicles and other forms of distributed storage that could be owned by customers rather than utilities or third parties. I don’t think the answer is necessarily straightforward and it ought to be addressed before the California legislature acts rather than later. If you think storage is really necessary, please explain why and provide some analysis to support your claim. I’ll provide an example of the kind of analysis I think is worthwhile by explaining why it might not be necessary and inviting all of you to tell me why I’m wrong.

    California will require about 90 billion kilowatthours of renewable energy in 2020 to meet the state mandate. Based on the $1500/kW price of sodium sulfur batteries that are preferred for grid applications, about $4.5 billion in investment will be required to meet the proposed 5% target for storage in 2020, for which customers will pay around $700 million per year in their electric rates. If the investment in storage avoids rejecting 1% of renewable energy production in 2020, the cost amounts to 70 cents per kilowatthour, or about 5 times the average retail price in California. Even solar PV production, which costs around 25 cents per kilowatthour, is a cheaper alternative. Now if the grid operator had to reject 10% of potential renewable output for lack of storage, I might have a different view. And in fact, I hope to find out whether that’s likely to be the case tomorrow.

    Charles, I’m aware of the value stream argument. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to sell the same production capability from any supply resource more than once – twice if you include capacity. If storage is providing voltage support, it can’t also sell energy because once it does, the voltage benefit is gone. The same goes for ancillary services – storage output that’s devoted to regulation can’t be used to sell energy at the same time. Therefore, you can only capture the benefit of one value stream at any point in time for a given unit of production capacity. This isn’t unique to storage – the same holds true for thermal plants. Moreover, assuming no losses and under the best economic case I can construct, a device, independent of its technology, that can store six hours of energy has to cost much less than it does today in order to make economic sense.

    John, I agree there’s a difference between optimal policy and feasible policy. Where we might disagree is whether politicians and regulators are competent enough to craft either one. When it comes to energy, California has provided some extraordinary leadership, and it has produced an equal number of extraordinary disasters. Having watched the process unfold for more than two thirds of my working life, I’m not optimistic that the proposed legislation has been carefully thought through.

    Finally, I would point out that the public eventually has to pay for all of this and they’re not in a paying mood right now. I’ll assert that electricity is priced in a way that encourages waste and discourages efficiency and demand management. Regulators know how to set efficient prices but they are justifiably afraid of a consumer revolt if they move too far too fast. If the planet is in imminent danger of dying, that event is still beyond the time horizon of those who struggle every day to feed, clothe and shelter their families. An optimal policy might require that we fix everything right away, but ignoring public sentiment by moving too fast and without regard to the cost is not economically, politically or socially feasible.

  • John

    @Jack — there’s optimal policy, and then there’s feasible policy. The optimal policy might be a federal carbon tax combined with regulatory changes that permit an interstate smart grid and federal funds for basic research. That kind of straightforward, simple policy might be sufficient to create the incentives necessary for the private economy to do the rest. But we don’t have optimal policy — we have an incapacitated federal government, leaving it up to states to do the best they can. California is also very constrained politically in what it can do, thanks to its own institutional insanity. Stated differently — what planet do you live on?

  • John

    @Jack — there’s optimal policy, and then there’s feasible policy. The optimal policy might be a federal carbon tax combined with regulatory changes that permit an interstate smart grid and federal funds for basic research. That kind of straightforward, simple policy might be sufficient to create the incentives necessary for the private economy to do the rest. But we don’t have optimal policy — we have an incapacitated federal government, leaving it up to states to do the best they can. California is also very constrained politically in what it can do, thanks to its own institutional insanity. Stated differently — what planet do you live on?

  • juangault

    Two ideas for storage, one mature and being expanded, the other a wildcard, with some serious potential.

    http://inspiredeconomist.com/2009/05/12/ge-to-open-100-million-sodium-battery-plant-in-ny/

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    Submitted by Dan Sweeney on Mon, 2009-07-06 19:57.

    My other venture is building to a crescendo. We have received funding on our advanced energy storage project and we are filing a new patent. We are also working on a proof of concept prototype which will determine the feasibility of the basic approach.

    Our prospects appear good. We have identified a solid electrolyte which has a voltage breakdown of several tens of kilovolts per millimeter and a dielectric constant of over 50 at all charge levels up to breakdown. We have also found an electrode capable of high voltage operation which presents a succession of smooth surfaces and which has hundreds of times the surface area of a flat plate per the same dimensions of length and width and which has a thickness of a fraction of a millimeter. If we can achieve an intimate connection between the solid electrolyte and the electrode we should be able to exceed the energy density of a lithium sulfur battery, the current state of the art, while still maintaining enormous power densities. Furthermore, our storage capacitor should be capable of sustaining hundreds of thousands of full charges and should have recharge time of only a few minutes provided a high current industrial charging circuit is available.

    There may be some reason why the concept won’t work. Nobody has ever succeeded in making a capacitor with very high capacitance operating at very high voltages except for some rather impractical designs utilizing cryogenic dielectrics. Then again not many people have tried.

  • juangault

    Two ideas for storage, one mature and being expanded, the other a wildcard, with some serious potential.

    http://inspiredeconomist.com/2009/05/12/ge-to-open-100-million-sodium-battery-plant-in-ny/

    Dan Sweeney

    Yvonne Sweeney

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    Submitted by Dan Sweeney on Mon, 2009-07-06 19:57.

    My other venture is building to a crescendo. We have received funding on our advanced energy storage project and we are filing a new patent. We are also working on a proof of concept prototype which will determine the feasibility of the basic approach.

    Our prospects appear good. We have identified a solid electrolyte which has a voltage breakdown of several tens of kilovolts per millimeter and a dielectric constant of over 50 at all charge levels up to breakdown. We have also found an electrode capable of high voltage operation which presents a succession of smooth surfaces and which has hundreds of times the surface area of a flat plate per the same dimensions of length and width and which has a thickness of a fraction of a millimeter. If we can achieve an intimate connection between the solid electrolyte and the electrode we should be able to exceed the energy density of a lithium sulfur battery, the current state of the art, while still maintaining enormous power densities. Furthermore, our storage capacitor should be capable of sustaining hundreds of thousands of full charges and should have recharge time of only a few minutes provided a high current industrial charging circuit is available.

    There may be some reason why the concept won’t work. Nobody has ever succeeded in making a capacitor with very high capacitance operating at very high voltages except for some rather impractical designs utilizing cryogenic dielectrics. Then again not many people have tried.

  • http://www.Utility-Savings.com Charles R. Toca

    One potential benefit of the legislation could be the valuation of the many benefit streams of advanced energy storage – peaking generation, reactive energy, frequency regulation, emergency power, black start, etc.. A robust storage technology, like the VRB-ESS (disclaimer – we sell this technology http://www.Utility-Savings.com) can provide many of the services currently supplied by natural gas turbines and transmission hardware, like static VAR compensators. Distributed PV, in large 20 MW systems, plus the VRB-ESS, could reduce or eliminate the need to build transmission lines. Energy storage can be more than just generation shifting.

    I’m not sure that this legislation is the best way to go about the process – I’m sure some of the utilities, that might otherwise support storage, may not like something forced upon them. And, we need to define “energy storage” carefully – should it cover chilled water, compressed natural gas, diesel tanks – or should it be an electricity in / electricity out technology?

    I hope the introduction of this legislation will start the discussion at a serious level. Considering energy storage for wind / PV makes more sense than building more fossil fueled generators.

  • http://www.Utility-Savings.com Charles R. Toca

    One potential benefit of the legislation could be the valuation of the many benefit streams of advanced energy storage – peaking generation, reactive energy, frequency regulation, emergency power, black start, etc.. A robust storage technology, like the VRB-ESS (disclaimer – we sell this technology http://www.Utility-Savings.com) can provide many of the services currently supplied by natural gas turbines and transmission hardware, like static VAR compensators. Distributed PV, in large 20 MW systems, plus the VRB-ESS, could reduce or eliminate the need to build transmission lines. Energy storage can be more than just generation shifting.

    I’m not sure that this legislation is the best way to go about the process – I’m sure some of the utilities, that might otherwise support storage, may not like something forced upon them. And, we need to define “energy storage” carefully – should it cover chilled water, compressed natural gas, diesel tanks – or should it be an electricity in / electricity out technology?

    I hope the introduction of this legislation will start the discussion at a serious level. Considering energy storage for wind / PV makes more sense than building more fossil fueled generators.

  • Jeff

    RE: Jacks’ comment…

    1.) The most efficient trains in Europe were built with public money and private capital. Today, Europe has high-speed rail, we have Amtrak.

    2.) While storage needs subsidies, so do fossil fuels. More has been spent on fossil fuels than on renewable energy for decades. There is no free market when it comes to energy. So the subsidy argument is a slippery slope.

    3.) Coal plants will be acceptable when they no longer produce the majority of mercury pollution in this country and no longer pump out tons of greenhouse gas emissions. So really, they’ll never be “acceptable.”

    4.) Renewable energy is NOT too expensive when compared to fossil fuels if fossil fuels were not heavily subsidized. And this doesn’t even include the externalities associated with our fossil fuel production and consumption. You can not with the argument based on economics. It won’t add up, no matter how much you try.

    5.) Your arguments are flimsy, just like most I’ve encountered from anti-renewable types. You want a free market? So do I. Stop all subsidies now and make sure all environmental costs are figured into the equation. Do that, and you’ll be paying $10 a gallon for gas and your utility bill will likely triple. Do that, and we’ll see just how fast renewables become competitive.

    6.) I agree that policymakers need to go about these things in a thoughtful way. And with all due respect, this writer wrote a thoughtful article. The problem is folks like you leaving comments based on nothing more than your own ill-informed opinion. You do realize that embracing renewable energy does not make you a liberal. It makes you a patriot. And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Leave as many comments as you want. Kick and scream the whole way. Progress will happen with or without you. Count on it!

  • Jeff

    RE: Jacks’ comment…

    1.) The most efficient trains in Europe were built with public money and private capital. Today, Europe has high-speed rail, we have Amtrak.

    2.) While storage needs subsidies, so do fossil fuels. More has been spent on fossil fuels than on renewable energy for decades. There is no free market when it comes to energy. So the subsidy argument is a slippery slope.

    3.) Coal plants will be acceptable when they no longer produce the majority of mercury pollution in this country and no longer pump out tons of greenhouse gas emissions. So really, they’ll never be “acceptable.”

    4.) Renewable energy is NOT too expensive when compared to fossil fuels if fossil fuels were not heavily subsidized. And this doesn’t even include the externalities associated with our fossil fuel production and consumption. You can not with the argument based on economics. It won’t add up, no matter how much you try.

    5.) Your arguments are flimsy, just like most I’ve encountered from anti-renewable types. You want a free market? So do I. Stop all subsidies now and make sure all environmental costs are figured into the equation. Do that, and you’ll be paying $10 a gallon for gas and your utility bill will likely triple. Do that, and we’ll see just how fast renewables become competitive.

    6.) I agree that policymakers need to go about these things in a thoughtful way. And with all due respect, this writer wrote a thoughtful article. The problem is folks like you leaving comments based on nothing more than your own ill-informed opinion. You do realize that embracing renewable energy does not make you a liberal. It makes you a patriot. And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem. Leave as many comments as you want. Kick and scream the whole way. Progress will happen with or without you. Count on it!

  • http://cleantechnica.com/author/susan Susan Kraemer

    Those “very generous land grants” to get the railroads started were the equivalent of last year’s funding through the Recovery Act: Federal financial assistance.

    The Recovery Act level of sensible investment by the government in our clean energy future is not likely to continue (all of the Carter era subsidies wound up ditched by Reagan, so they wound up subsidizing the development of overseas solar instead) because the next administration that comes along just cuts it off again.

    By contrast ongoing mandates like Renewable Energy Standards demonstrably have worked, (even during the Bush years) especially in the absence of Federal carbon prices, so including mandates for storage as well makes sense.

  • http://cleantechnica.com/author/susan Susan Kraemer

    Those “very generous land grants” to get the railroads started were the equivalent of last year’s funding through the Recovery Act: Federal financial assistance.

    The Recovery Act level of sensible investment by the government in our clean energy future is not likely to continue (all of the Carter era subsidies wound up ditched by Reagan, so they wound up subsidizing the development of overseas solar instead) because the next administration that comes along just cuts it off again.

    By contrast ongoing mandates like Renewable Energy Standards demonstrably have worked, (even during the Bush years) especially in the absence of Federal carbon prices, so including mandates for storage as well makes sense.

  • Jack Ellis

    There are a couple of points in this article I’d like to comment on.

    First, railroads were built with private capital, not public money. Large private fortunes were one result (Leland Stanford and Cornelius Vanderbilt come to mind), largely because these entrepreneurs received very generous land grants that transferred what was then a public asset into the private sector.

    Second, you make no mention of cost-effectiveness. Material that’s publicly available on the California Energy Storage Association web site suggests storage can’t make acceptable returns without generous subsidies, even when they’re installed by utility customers.

    Third, with generous subsidy programs already available, it’s not clear why storage needs a portfolio standard. If storage is not economically viable with subsidies that cover a large share of the costs, then all a portfolio standard does is create an unjustifiable wealth transfer from consumers to producers.

    Third, building storage in order to increase the delivered output of existing renewable energy facilities by one or two percent is a lot more expensive than building a few more wind turbines or PV arrays to make up the difference. Even if the public agrees that green is good, I doubt they’re willing to buy into the notion that green is good no matter how much it costs.

    Fourth, the combination of subsidies and a portfolio standard creates an unhealthy incentive to pursue shares of the carve-out and the subsidies instead of concentrating on technological innovation and cost reductions. Nissan was willing to fund battery development that reduced costs and increased storage capacity even when it was struggling financially (http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/16/autos/lithium_ion_batteries.fortune/index.htm). Private storage companies should be able to do the same.

    Fifth, there is no comparison between power production technologies in the 19th century and the power production technologies we have available today. Early coal and oil-fired power plants had conversion efficiencies in the teens. Today’s modern gas-fired combined cycle plants have efficiencies that are comparable to or even a bit better than fuel cells using natural gas. 19th century power plants were dangerous and dirty. Gas plants are quite clean and coal plants are much better, if not yet good enough.

    Finally, distributed or not, renewable resources have their own environmental impacts. They require lots of land. They require new operating methods to provide the reliable electric supply consumers have come to expect. Renewable energy is quite expensive and there is a surprising degree of public opposition to siting facilities, whether in the desert or on an Appalachian ridge top.

    If policymakers don’t go about this in a thoughtful way and if writers like you don’t write thoughtful articles, we could well see public opposition coalesce around a perceived conspiracy to force renewable energy down the public’s throat. That would be unfortunate.

  • Jack Ellis

    There are a couple of points in this article I’d like to comment on.

    First, railroads were built with private capital, not public money. Large private fortunes were one result (Leland Stanford and Cornelius Vanderbilt come to mind), largely because these entrepreneurs received very generous land grants that transferred what was then a public asset into the private sector.

    Second, you make no mention of cost-effectiveness. Material that’s publicly available on the California Energy Storage Association web site suggests storage can’t make acceptable returns without generous subsidies, even when they’re installed by utility customers.

    Third, with generous subsidy programs already available, it’s not clear why storage needs a portfolio standard. If storage is not economically viable with subsidies that cover a large share of the costs, then all a portfolio standard does is create an unjustifiable wealth transfer from consumers to producers.

    Third, building storage in order to increase the delivered output of existing renewable energy facilities by one or two percent is a lot more expensive than building a few more wind turbines or PV arrays to make up the difference. Even if the public agrees that green is good, I doubt they’re willing to buy into the notion that green is good no matter how much it costs.

    Fourth, the combination of subsidies and a portfolio standard creates an unhealthy incentive to pursue shares of the carve-out and the subsidies instead of concentrating on technological innovation and cost reductions. Nissan was willing to fund battery development that reduced costs and increased storage capacity even when it was struggling financially (http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/16/autos/lithium_ion_batteries.fortune/index.htm). Private storage companies should be able to do the same.

    Fifth, there is no comparison between power production technologies in the 19th century and the power production technologies we have available today. Early coal and oil-fired power plants had conversion efficiencies in the teens. Today’s modern gas-fired combined cycle plants have efficiencies that are comparable to or even a bit better than fuel cells using natural gas. 19th century power plants were dangerous and dirty. Gas plants are quite clean and coal plants are much better, if not yet good enough.

    Finally, distributed or not, renewable resources have their own environmental impacts. They require lots of land. They require new operating methods to provide the reliable electric supply consumers have come to expect. Renewable energy is quite expensive and there is a surprising degree of public opposition to siting facilities, whether in the desert or on an Appalachian ridge top.

    If policymakers don’t go about this in a thoughtful way and if writers like you don’t write thoughtful articles, we could well see public opposition coalesce around a perceived conspiracy to force renewable energy down the public’s throat. That would be unfortunate.

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