SACRAMENTO – On Wednesday, August 18, the Assembly Select Committee on California’s Clean Energy Economy, chaired by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), hosted an informational hearing, Through the Valley of Death: Taking Emerging Seasonal Energy Storage Technologies from Research and Development through Deployment. The committee heard from various engineers and experts about the need for seasonal energy storage, emerging technologies that could provide seasonal storage, and what is needed to scale up and deploy these technologies. These experts and engineers represented public, private and education institutions, including the University of California Merced, School of Engineering, California Energy Storage Alliance, Form Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California Energy Commission and Sandia National Lab.
In 2018, California set an ambitious goal of decarbonizing the electric grid by 2045. To meet this goal, the grid will increasingly rely on renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power. But energy production by solar and wind resources varies based on the weather and is not always enough to meet energy demand. “This leads to over-generation of renewable energy in the spring and early summer months that must be curtailed,” explained Assemblymember Quirk.
Meanwhile, California relies on natural gas “peaker” plants to meet energy demand later in the summer and in winter months. Seasonal energy storage could be a key tool in ensuring grid reliability by harnessing renewable energy when it is available and storing it for days, weeks, or even months for later use.
“However, many seasonal energy storage technologies are currently in the research and development stage and have yet to make it through the challenging phase of commercialization, also known as the “valley of death.” Scaling up and deploying these emerging technologies can require years to decades, so ensuring that cost-effective seasonal storage will be available in time to meet the 2045 goals set by SB 100 represents both technical and policy challenges,” noted Assemblymember Quirk.
State and federal grant programs can support the development and deployment of these technologies by funding technologies that are deemed to be too risky for private investors or that provide benefits that are currently not valued in the market.
"We talk about the climate crisis. To meet that crisis, we have a crisis now in deploying enough storage so we can meet our goals in 2030 and 2045 for decarbonizing our grid and decarbonizing our society" said Assemblymember Bill Quirk. “However, after today’s hearing, I worry that we might be too late.”
This informational hearing provided an overview of the role seasonal that energy storage can play in the zero-carbon grid; the challenges of commercializing seasonal energy storage technologies; and what work is ongoing and needed to develop and deploy energy storage in time to meet California’s 2045 goals.