How the world’s biggest battery could help solve blackouts in California

California aims to run its grid entirely on fossil-fuel-free energy by 2045 and has been closing down dirty power plants and ramping up renewables at a steady clip. But while fuels can supply a steady stream of energy, the sun and wind are intermittent. 

That’s where the Gateway Energy storage project in San Diego comes into play. As of last Monday, the facility is now capable of storing and dispatching 230 megawatts to the Golden State’s grid for one hour and is set to beef up to 250 megawatts later this month. That knocks the previous titleholder, Tesla’s 100-megawatt Horndale Power Reserve in South Australia, out of the water. Sorry, Elon.

Steve Berberich, the president and CEO of the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the state’s electricity system, has said it will eventually need as much as 15,000 megawatts of battery storage to reach the state’s clean energy goal. In that context, the Gateway project is a drop in the bucket.

But Berberich has called it a turning point in a series of large-capacity projects that are coming online this year. California started 2020 with just 136 megawatts of storage and is expected to have 923 by the end of the year. Anne Gonzales, a spokesperson for CAISO, told Grist that every little bit helps during a heatwave when the grid operator is scouring all entities for every megawatt that can be spared.

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