There is a big push to increase use of solar energy, because it makes so much sense. In Arizona, which this week has experienced its first warm weather of the year, the power of the sun is all too obvious. That it can produce electricity without polluting the air is great.
In the past, solar energy use was very limited. That is changing, however, as technology improves and more customers install solar panels at their homes and businesses. Now battery technology has improved as well and that is critical, because the availability of and demand for solar power does not always match up.
Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest electric utility, is taking some big strides with batteries to provide power after sundown, especially when it is hot and air conditioners run on into the night. Typically that is the time when extra gas-fired power plants gear up to provide for high demand.
APS is planning to add batteries delivering 850 megawatts of electricity, a huge amount and enough to power 212,500 homes for three to four hours. The investment, according to The Arizona Republic, is likely to be more than $1 billion. Some of the battery capacity will be built by the company and some will be purchased.
Last year APS was paid to take extra solar power from California that could not be used there on 81 days. Having the ability to store the excess would make it more valuable.
The work APS is doing in this area rated a visit recently from Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas who ran for president twice.
Arizonans last year rejected a ballot measure financed by a California billionaire that would have required energy generation changes that would have been unnatural and expensive to consumers. The progress that companies like APS are making with solar power, based on market forces and existing state regulations, makes much more sense and will help to protect consumers.