The challenges of renewable energy

California has been booming as far as green energy solutions in the US go, yet even in the sunshine and wind-rich state, there are days when the sun and wind are at a shortfall. The state’s solution has been something that has not yet been done on similar grids: they have decided to store away the green electricity.

California’s policing method of the prolific grid are called the Independent System Operator, which monitors and reports the state’s electricity demands every four seconds, and then provides the said amount of electricity. Inside the operator’s headquarters, dozens of people sit at computers constructing a line that traces California’s current electricity usage rates. The operation is an extensive and intricate one, as the people and machines involved deal with precise numbers that must not deviate even slightly.

Growing wind and solar energy projects have been rising in the ranks in the state that is presently mostly fuelled by natural gas. It is largely due to such variable factors as weather conditions that the state’s continued dependency on conventional electric sources is ever-present. The sometimes totally unpredictable weather patterns make for an erratic production schedules, and have pushed the local green energy industry to consider some permanent solutions.

Project Sano seems to be one of these solutions. It is essentially a large battery that looks a shipping container. The battery holds over 2 MW of energy and is located in Huntington Beach, outside of Los Angeles.

There is enough energy in that container to field the power needs of 1,500 homes, and the battery can be used to store green energy for long periods of time. The device may be particularly useful in storing wind power, most of which reaches its peaks in the night time. If that night wind power can be saved in such batteries, and then released into the system in the day time, once power demands reach a high point; the volatile nature of wind power can be somewhat curbed, making for a more efficient production setting.

The one challenge that looms over such a theory is the sheer cost of storing energy in batteries, which right now is more than twice as expensive as conventional fuel storage is. Yet coming stimulus funds may be able to solve the financial woes that surround the otherwise feasible solution.

The funding comprises more than $250 million, and that sum may be the perfect starting point towards more prevalent storage solutions for renewable energy. It would certainly help the state in gaining more control over its ever-fluctuating weather conditions.

The storage solution, however ideal on paper is still tens of years away from being completely affordable on a purely financial level. Despite the technical aspects of the theory all being in place, California’s electricity needs are urgent and immediate, and the green target set up in the state to get a third of its electricity from green sources by the year 2020 is also putting tremendous pressure on the project.