California Wastes Tons Of Wind And Solar Power Due To Lack Of Energy Storage

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

Solar and wind forced California operators to waste enormous amounts of power by cutting green energy from the grid in mid-July, because there’s nowhere to store the power.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out Friday the best way to store the electricity generated by wind and solar power is still a century-old technology that involves moving large amounts of water. Reports by the state’s utility, California Independent System Operator (CAISCO), confirm wind and solar power were wasted due to lack of storage capacity.

The only economical way known to store power is to literally build a giant facility designed to push water uphill, and then let gravity move the water downhill through hydroelectricity turbines to provide extra electricity when needed. Currently, America has about 1/1,500th of the energy storage capacity necessary for wind and solar to provide “100 percent green energy,” according to an analysis of federal data by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

All of America only has the capacity to store 21,378 megawatts of energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The country isn’t building enough hydro-pumped storage capacity to change this fundamental equation, as the country added a mere 221 megawatts of storage capacity in 2015. Other methods of storing power exist, but currently account for less than 1 percent of all energy storage.

Academic calculations indicate that to match the amount of energy contained in a single gallon of gasoline, hydro-pumped storage units must lift 13 tons of water 3,280 feet high. The estimates state storing enough electricity for a single day of demand would require roughly 2,500 facilities, each of which would require as much concrete as exists in the Three Gorges and Grand Coulee dams combined.

This lack of energy storage capacity and serious difficulties in building more is one reasons solar and wind power only accounted for 0.6 and 4.7 percent of the electricity created in America during 2015, according to the EIA.

Without large-scale energy storage, the power grid needs demand for energy to exactly match supply to function, or blackouts and brownouts will occur if too much electricity is generated. This is why electrical companies will occasionally pay consumers to take electricity. Germany paid wind farms $548 million to switch off last year to avoid grid damage. Blackouts have already threatened California, and grid operators think the state could be facing them again this summer.

Green energy also runs the risk of not producing enough electricity on an especially cloudy or windless day and tends to provide electricity at times which don’t coincide with when power is most needed; peak energy demand occurs in the evenings when solar power is going offline.

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