Published on November 6th, 2015 | by Jake Richardson


California Energy Storage Initiative Expands

November 6th, 2015 by  

Two new members joined CalCharge, California’s energy storage initiative. They are Southern California Edison and the University of California, San Diego. Members get access to researchers and labs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Some other prominent members are Toyota and Bosch, and CalCharge now has 27 members total. Over 130 California companies are working to advance battery technology.


“Together we can seek a future where energy use is cleaner and more reliable, our customer choice is plentiful, and our customer lives will be better,” says Stuart Hemphill, an executive at Southern California Edison. Southern California Edison supplies electricity to about 14 million people in Southern California.

UCSD has its own microgrid, which it uses to manage and distribute electricity generated by burning natural gas, and it has 2.3 MW of solar power. Over 90% of the campus electricity is generated by the microgrid — the remainder comes from the local utility. The university in La Jolla wants to become carbon-neutral by 2025. It’s an obvious enough point, but having a microgrid at a university and a large solar array is a great way to expose students to clean technology.

CalCharge is a public-private partnership focused on accelerating the development of energy storage technologies and their adoption. A Berkeley Lab researcher, Venkat Srinivasan, explained why public-private collaborations are important: “It’s possible our lab, working alone, will make a spectacular discovery enabling a cost-effective electric vehicle that can go 300 miles on a single charge. But that discovery in the Lab will translate to real-world impact much faster only if we work with materials companies, battery companies, and car companies, and understand the challenges they face.”

One fascinating prospect is using vehicle batteries to make stationary energy storage devices. This technology has recently been used in Germany, but innovation can cross international boundaries. Worldwide, there is clearly a strong incentive to build energy storage rapidly, in order to catch up with the surge in renewable energy installations.

Image Credit: Tktktk, Wiki Commons

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  • jeffhre

    “One fascinating prospect is using vehicle batteries to make stationary energy storage devices. This technology has recently been used in Germany…”

    And in the US.

  • vensonata

    Notice what is happening here. It is a model. “Micro grid” meaning “off grid”. Large PV array and natural gas generator. That is standard “old school”. Now they introduce batteries (and probably hot water or ice storage as well). And they will easily hit 97% of supply with clean power. The last 3% (I am guessing, but that ratio keeps reappearing in modern off grid, including my own) is produced by natural gas generator. Quite clean compared to coal or diesel. My pet theory is that the next step will not be more storage but the use of hydrogen fuel cell to supply the last 3% by seasonal storage from over production of PV about 6 months per year. It will be produced through electrolysis and stored in modestly compressed form in carbon fiber tanks developed for EV. It does not need super compression. This system actually could replace the entire US grid without any other source than solar. Even dispensing with nuclear, wind or hydro. (I am waiting for outraged disbelief, but I would prefer rational critique since this is napkin math and amateur speculation). Yes, without any other source than PV plus storage plus hydrogen seasonal storage through electrolysis, it is possible to power the world….and “quite economically”. Not cheaply… but cleanly and adequately. Now of course we don’t have to do that since we have amazing wind and hydro resources as well, (but I favor eliminating Nuclear).
    It is merely a thought experiment, but I reckon that it will actually happen in certain localities within a year or two.

    • Calamity_Jean

      I hope you’re right, but doubt it will be that soon except for some isolated islands.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you’re 3% or less it would likely be a lot less expensive to go with a small diesel generator and source some biodiesel. Getting into the complexity of hydrogen production and storage – too much complexity.

      “Life is actually really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius.

      • jeffhre

        For a larger scale of generation, bio-gas from dumps, waste sites and sewage treatment would fill in. For those that live and work near dumps.

    • jeffhre

      “Quite clean compared to coal or diesel.” Mark Jacobson, of Stanford’s department of civil and environmental engineering believes NG extraction processes combined with the leaky pipeline delivery systems, make it’s use just as potentially emissions intense – as coal burning.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Yes, but…

        First, we can control well leakage. That’s already been shown, now it just needs to be universally practiced. And we can (and must) patch our leaky distribution system. That’s already being done at least in CA. PG&E are now stopping leaks after the deadly explosion they had a couple years back.

        The new EPA NG regs should be dealing with those problems going forward.

        Second, a straight coal -> NG (with leaks) wouldn’t gain us less CO2. But a coal -> wind/solar/NG in which NG supplies < 50% of the electricity would cut the GHG problem by more than 2.

        Suppose: 40% from wind + 40% from solar + 20% from NG. Even if the NG continued to leak there would be an 80% reduction in GHG emissions. Control the leaks and we cut GHG emissions by 90%.

  • Marion Meads

    Which option do you think is better? Shall I buy and install a Tesla Powerwall and use it in my household or shall I invest the same amount of money in SunEdison and let them use the money to buy energy storage and then I just get dividends?

    • vensonata

      Invest in Sunedison, keep the profits until Tesla battery comes down in price…about 3 years. Then buy the Tesla powerwall with the profits…win win.

      • jeffhre

        How much value has SUNE lost recently?

    • Robert Pollock

      Do the Powerwall first to familiarize yourself with the routine of cycling the power as a function of your daily schedule. It would take me months, to ‘fine tune’ it or as the engineers say, “make it transparent to the user”. Then calculate the return, it may be much different than the SunEdison investment. The Powerwall will give you control that you want anyway.

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