AES energy storage units
Photo courtesy of AES Energy Storage.

Two years ago, an underground natural gas storage facility in California ruptured and thousands of tons of gas escaped. But the disaster could be a blessing in disguise for clean energy.

The local utilities were concerned that they would not have enough natural gas to meet high electricity demands the following summer. And residents faced up to 14 days of potential blackouts.

Manghani: “What that prompted essentially was immediate emergency action to figure out how to resolve the potential natural gas shortage.”

That’s Ravi Manghani of GTM Research – a company that studies the electricity market.

California ordered utilities to install large batteries that could store excess electricity for later use. It helped avert a potential shortage from the leak. And it created the infrastructure that makes it possible to include clean energy in the electricity supply more reliably.

Fossil fueled power plants can produce energy as needed, but wind and solar cannot. So to rely on them, we need energy storage to meet demand when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

The batteries came online last year. So while the gas leak was a disaster, it also paved the way for more clean energy.

Reporting credit: Peter Bresnan/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...