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California Proposes First Renewable Energy Storage Requirements

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.


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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writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, 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.


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