Now that the deadline has passed to file for grid storage projects under the ARRA , we’re beginning to see some of the concepts and projects that have applied for funds – see post below – including the 300 MW compressed air project by PG&E I believe PG&E will have to deal with some of the following issues on this project.
- First, the $25 million requested is only for “initial analysis and design“. The anticipated cost for the project will be $368 million. And that’s before we see the cost over runs, delays and unexpected problems a huge project like this will invariably incur.
- Then the utility will have to explain why they want to take “clean” wind energy and make it “dirty”. Because, you see, the compressed air will be used for natural gas turbines! The argument is that the compressed air will make the natural gas turbines run more efficiently, requiring less natural gas – which is great if you’re trying to make your natural gas turbines more efficient. But we thought the point of wind energy was to produce clean and renewable power – not more fossil fueled power.
- And how much energy will we lose in this process? We create a certain amount of energy with wind and then burn it away by compressing it and burning natural gas. What is the net delivered energy when all of this is finished? I’ve seen reports of as little as 54%. So we take wind energy, throw away 40% or more, increase the price volatility through the natural gas market, and add emissions and GHGs. Why is this a good idea?
Utilities like CAES because it increases their power as a utility. They get to spend a bunch of ratepayer money on a huge central power plant which they control. This is why they have problems with distributed advanced batteries like the VRB-ESS. We could install 300 MW of the VRB-ESS in less time then they can get a CAES plant – if they ever get it built at all. And, the batteries would be built where it’s needed, close to the load, reducing the need for more transmission wires, reducing the cost of distribution, improving energy security and power quality, and with greater efficiencies – less loss of wind energy – no emissions and no volatility on the cost of power.