Batteries replace natural gas power plants?

The Orange County Sanitation District installed these batteries to reduce emissions and natural gas dependence.

In August of this year, California was hit by a heat wave. California regulators sent emails asking for help to senior executives of energy companies. “Please seriously consider this urgent request and consider the interests of California.” The email read.

Due to unexpected shutdowns of power plants and a surge in power demand, California power grid managers are working to increase power supply. In the face of power shortages, California officials had to order power outages across the state, which is the first time the state has implemented this measure in nearly 20 years.

The recipients of these mails are extraordinary. They manage thousands of batteries, which serve public utility companies, businesses, government facilities and even households. California officials set their sights on these battery energy stored in machinery, hoping that they can alleviate the dilemma of poor grid management and reduce the number of power outages.

Many energy experts predict that batteries can turn homes and businesses into small power plants, which play a key role in the power system. They can absorb excess electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and then supply it after the sun sets. In addition, due to climate change, wildfires and hurricanes are becoming more and more destructive, batteries can continue to supply power after these disasters. These experts also believe that the large number of batteries owned by utility companies will begin to replace natural gas-fueled power plants in the next 10 years.

However, this day does not seem to be as far away as expected, at least in California, which ranks among the top US energy reserves. In the recent power crisis, more than 30,000 batteries had the same power supply capacity as a medium-sized natural gas plant. Experts say they will be more important in the future, as utilities, businesses, and homeowners invest billions of dollars in such equipment.

Everyone is beginning to realize that energy storage is not a matter of one or two projects, it is a brand new way of managing electric energy. “Fluence chief operating officer John Zahurancik (John Zahurancik) said that some public utility companies and large enterprises have purchased large-scale energy storage systems they produce.

August 14 was the first day that California ordered a rotating blackout. Stem, an energy company based in the San Francisco Bay Area, released 50 megawatts of electricity from the batteries of enterprises, local governments and other customers, enough for 20,000 households. Some of these equipment are installed in the Sanitation District of Orange County, with the goal of reducing reliance on natural gas during peak energy usage periods while reducing emissions.

Stem’s CEO John Carrington said that if California regulators hadn’t forbidden companies to sell electricity generated by batteries directly to power companies, they could have provided more electricity to the grid.

“We could have supplied two or three times more electricity.” He added.

California independent system operators manage about 80% of the state’s power grid. They blamed the rotation of power outages on a series of unfortunate events: a natural gas plant suddenly shut down, insufficient wind caused thousands of turbines to stop running, and power plants in other states Can not output enough power.

However, in recent weeks, people have gradually discovered that California power grid managers actually made some mistakes in the last month. This reminds people of the energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, when millions of homes were out of power and electricity prices soared.

Grid managers did not contact the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom until a power outage was ordered on August 14. If they can take action earlier, the governor can call on homeowners and businesses to reduce electricity usage, which he did not do until two days ago. In addition, he could have called for the California Department of Water Resources to supply electricity through hydropower plants.

Weather forecasters have issued heat wave warnings for several days. While grid managers and large utility companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric Company were looking for more power resources, the agency could have made plans to use countless idle batteries across the state.

The California Public Utilities Commission frantically requested assistance from the California Solar Energy and Storage Association at the last juncture, bringing this electricity-seeking activity to a climax. The committee requested the organization to release battery energy originally supplied to customers such as the environmental sanitation department to the grid. (Businesses and homeowners usually buy batteries with solar panels from companies such as Stem and Sunrun, and these companies are responsible for managing the system for their customers.)

According to statistics from the California Independent System Operator, during the power outage on August 14, the peak power of the battery in the grid was approximately 147 megawatts. The next day, officials requested an increase in power supply, so the supply soared to 310 megawatts.

Officials from the California Independent System Operator and Public Utilities Commission said they were trying to find the “root cause” of the crisis after the governor requested an investigation.

Of course, many energy companies and some conservative lawmakers are skeptical of batteries. They believe that it is much better to build and maintain natural gas power plants, because public utility companies have accumulated decades of experience in this area, and natural gas resources are abundant and the price is relatively cheap. In their view, batteries are not only expensive, but can only supply electricity for a short period of time—usually four or five hours.

Dominion Energy is a large utility company in the United States. Although it has invested in batteries, it also believes that natural gas power plants can ensure the stability and reliability of the grid. The company’s vice president, Katharine Bond, said in an interview recently: “We don’t think this is an either-or choice.”

However, both proponents and critics of storage batteries believe that this type of equipment, together with renewable resources, will pose a fundamental challenge to the power system that has been operating in a top-down manner for a long time. This model has been operating stably for decades and has brought a stable rate of return to its investment, generally 10.5%.

However, more and more homes and businesses are not just electricity users. As the prices of solar panels and storage batteries have fallen sharply in recent years, people can generate their own electricity and become suppliers.