In October 2015, the Aliso Canyon gas fields in Southern California sprang a leak that took the state’s largest gas-storage system out of service. The leak raised red flags for California’s energy planners, who worried that there would not be enough gas to fuel peakers—generating plants that kick in when summer heat causes electricity demand to soar. In response, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a solicitation for energy storage projects that could help ensure the state would have enough power.
As a result, companies such as AES Energy Storage, Greensmith Energy and Tesla stepped up and within eight months—a fraction of the time it would take to build a gas plant—the state had 70 MW of storage online. “Aliso Canyon was a significant sea change” for the power industry, says Daniel Finn-Foley, senior analyst for energy storage at GTM Research. It showed energy storage could be effective in filling the role traditionally played by gas-fired peakers.