PG&E is a utility operating in Northern California that serves 15–16 million people. It recently announced contracts for 75 MW of energy storage projects employing lithium-ion batteries, zinc/air batteries, and flywheel technology. The lithium-ion batteries are for 42 MW, the flywheel tech is for 20 MW, and the zinc/air batteries for 13 MW. The energy storage projects that will be installed first are scheduled to become operational in May of 2017.

The utility already has a 4 MW/28MWh battery system in operation in the San Jose area. 75 megawatts is obviously far more than 4, so perhaps we are seeing a substantial surge in energy storage for the utility as a long-term trend.

The California Public Utilities Commission has defined a much larger goal — 1,325 MW of energy storage by 2020 for Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Pacific Gas & Electric.

“PG&E support the state’s efforts to enable energy storage to play its appropriate role in the California electric grid to support the integration of utility-scale and customer-connected renewables, and is excited to take this first step in implementing these goals,” explained PG&E executive Fong Wan.

The expansion of energy storage in California is exciting because it means battery systems are gaining acceptance among these utilities. Also, the companies that make the systems are getting purchases, so they and their employees are being supported. As more and more solar power systems are installed on home and commercial rooftops, energy storage demand will likely increase. Of course, this trend will be good for energy storage companies, since they will need to make more products and hire more people to install them.

We often hear about the environmental benefits of clean, renewable energy, but this fledgling industry also employs many people. For example, about 430,000 people in California work in the advanced energy field. About 73,000 work in the solar power industry in the state.