California’s wind-reliant electric grid has an underlying problem that electric company Southern California Edison plans to address.
Wind turbines spin continuously, resulting in a surplus of power, especially at night when most people are not even awake to utilize electricity.
As a result, the price of electricity generally plummets at night, occasionally dropping below zero and becoming negative!
So the big question is how can California store the excess energy until demand rises again?
Southern California Edison recently held a competition to get to the bottom of the issue, specifically how to keep up after retiring a nuclear generator and natural gas units, which resulted in an innovative idea revolving around storing energy in giant 450-gallon ice packs.
The Ice Bear system utilizes ice for air conditioning by freezing water inside 450-gallon rooftop tanks using excess energy during the night.
As the ice from the rooftop tanks melt during the day, it is then used to cool air that is sent down inside for air conditioning.
Southern California Edison awarded the Ice Bear system a contract in order to see if it has potential to scale up from its humble beginnings.
If electric grids are ever going to become more reliant on wind and solar farms, we will need to develop unique processes for efficiently dealing with fluctuations in electricity demand through utilizing bigger and better batteries.
It just so happens that our batteries of the future might be made of ice.