We have reached a fantastic milestone – on sunny days in California, we produce more solar power than the state’s customers can consume. And there’s a lot more solar coming. Solar is now the cheapest form of energy you can put on the grid.
As a long-time champion of solar energy (my first start-up was in solar power) I feel like this cause for celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for the innovations in technology, the important policies that nudged us in this direction, and the way Californians have embraced green energy.
But generating more electricity than we can use creates problems. Not only do we waste electricity that should be used in some productive way, but it makes our power grid unstable.
There’s an easy solution. Store the extra energy so it can be used when the sun is not shining. Typically, peak demand is at the beginning and end of the day. And peak solar generation is in the middle of the day. If we store the excess mid-day solar energy, we can use it during the demand peaks.
Storing energy that can be used for more than 4 hours is referred to as Long Duration Storage. There are technologies now being commercialized at scale that do this well. Grid Scale Flow Batteries can store 100s of MWhs and discharge on demand as needed.
We’ve spent decades pushing for a solar energy future. We are now on the cusp of making that a reality. To do it, we now need to embrace Battery Storage with the same zeal (and investment) that we have for photovoltaic panels.