Jump-starting the Bay Area’s battery research could yield answers beyond 2020
By Thibault Worth
Tommy Conry loading a lithium coin cell for testing at LBNL's battery lab.
We’ve reported extensively about AB 32, California’s 2006 greenhouse gas reductions law that calls for 1990-level carbon emissions by 2020.
But what happens to carbon reduction efforts beyond that date?
A less publicized, yet more aggressive 2050 target calls for slashing carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century. That goal was established by an Executive Order by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. Achieving such an ambitious target will require a range of initiatives, including building better batteries.
AB 32 calls for 33% of California’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. But while solar and wind energy produce zero carbon, they also fluctuate. The current solution is to balance those fluctuations with fast-ramping natural gas-fired power plants. And they produce carbon aplenty. Continue reading
The companies’ founders don’t just share business interests: they’re also family
Elon Musk is the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and supported the creation of SolarCity.
Elon Musk is well-known in Silicon Valley as the founder of the luxury electric vehicle company Tesla Motors, and of SpaceX, the private space transport company.
What’s less well-known is Musk’s contribution to SolarCity, the solar installer and energy efficiency auditor. Musk inspired–and helped fund–the creation of the San Mateo-based solar company. And Tesla is working closely with SolarCity on a clean energy storage solution that would combine Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries with SolarCity’s rooftop solar arrays. The collaboration makes sense: not only is Musk the chairman of SolarCity, but the founders of the company, brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive, are his first cousins.
A 2 MW battery at the AES Huntington Beach power plant. (Photo: Lauren Sommer)
Energy storage is something we’ve come to take for granted in everyday life. Our cell phones, iPods, cars and computers all depend on batteries. But storing large amounts of energy for the electric grid is another matter entirely. It’s a technical challenge that has yet to be met–but will need to be for the coming age of renewable energy.
California’s grid is designed to deliver electricity on a real-time basis. Every four seconds, the grid operators at the California Independent System Operator (ISO) have to ensure that the energy supply meets the demand in the state, something that’s known as “balancing” the grid (you can see today’s electricity forecast on the ISO site). As a result, they coordinate the one piece of the system that they have control over: the power plants. Continue reading