California Has Defeated the Sun: 20% of the Power It Uses at Night Comes From Solar Panels

  • The U.S. has increased its grid storage capacity tenfold since 2020.

  • California alone has installed 10,000 MW of power via batteries, which has already resulted in a reduction of fossil fuel use at night.

Solar Panel California
No comments Twitter Flipboard E-mail

California is a prosperous, progressive, and sunny state with the potential to lead America’s energy transition. California receives more energy from the Sun than any other state and is a leader in installing batteries to store solar energy for use at night.

The sun also sets in California. Even when the sun goes down and solar panels stop generating power, there’s still a need for electricity. The demand increases as people return home from work.

To meet this demand, electric companies have traditionally relied on burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas. However, California is making significant strides in changing this dynamic.

A battery revolution. In the last four years, California has emerged as a leader in the installation of large-scale stationary batteries, second only to China. The outcome is evident: During peak hours between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., these batteries supply one-fifth of the electricity used by the state.

Electricity companies use these batteries to store the surplus energy generated by solar panels during the day. They then rely on them in the early evening or, to a lesser extent, the morning, to lower carbon emissions.

A more stable grid. Stationary batteries not only enable the integration of renewable energies into the grid but are also vital in smoothing out its fluctuations.

California's energy grid has been relying less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energy sources like solar and wind. However, these energy sources are naturally intermittent, which is where batteries come in. They help balance out the variability in energy supply.

10x more storage. California has been investing heavily in battery technology and has seen significant growth in installed battery capacity, going from 770 MW to 10,379 MW in the past four years. The state's goal is to have an emissions-free energy supply by 2045. To achieve the goal, it's gradually replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

This has resulted in the U.S. increasing its storage capacity by 10 since 2020, with a potential to double it again this year. Interestingly, Texas is pursuing a different but equally effective strategy towards achieving this goal.

The Texas method. Batteries not only compensate for the intermittency of renewable energy sources but also participate in the energy market. They charge when electricity is cheaper and discharge when it becomes more expensive.

California is promoting battery use with new regulations. However, Texas is using market forces to take advantage of price fluctuations and benefit from energy storage.

Challenges. Although the demand for batteries is increasing and their prices are dropping, they remain expensive and heavily reliant on imports and elements such as lithium. They’re also potentially dangerous due to their flammability.

Technological progress is still necessary to achieve more efficient and widespread use of batteries that are less dependent on extractive industries and have greater storage capacity. However, the U.S. isn't waiting for these advances to fill the grid with batteries, especially since China is already doing so.

Image | California State

Related | Californians Installed Too Many Solar Panels. It’s Causing a Problem for Their Electrical Grid

Home o Index