Grid storage a secure solution

- While much has been talked about using batteries or other forms of storage to balance intermittent renewable wind and solar power on the grid, Jim Woolsey believes that distributed storage also helps to secure the grid from terrorists.

Woolsey, who directed the CIA under President Clinton and is a partner at Vantage Point Venture Partners, says the national power grid was developed "without a thought about security" and as constructed today is "Al Qaeda's dream." Speaking at the Storage Week conference, Woolsey unabashedly proclaimed that moving the grid from centralized to distributed resources was necessary to make the task of those who wish to disrupt the U.S. economy more difficult.

"As we look at public policy and energy, the problem is the fragility of our domestic grid, and dependence on oil. It is a step in the right direction to move towards renewables and distributed generation, and storage will play an important role," Woolsey said.

The charismatic Woolsey drew chuckles from an otherwise stolid crowd of utility and energy services providers as he called for an end to American dependence on foreign oil. Energy storage is "one way out of it," according to Woolsey. He warned of the dangers of the world's reliance on eight of the nine largest exporting oil countries run by autocracies and dictatorships, and said that he encourages the use of plug-in hybrids so that Saudi princes "would have to get real work."

Grid risks includes placing high voltage transformers and their backups within easy sniper range along highways "protected only by chicken wire," said Woolsey. (A utility exec later in the day refuted Woolsey's assertion, saying that backup transformers are not located adjacent to primary units.)

Microgrids, which include their own backup storage systems and generation resources and can island themselves from the grid, enable organizations or homeowners to keep vital services going in the event of grid outages caused by accidents or terrorist activities, Woolsey said.

While most of his speech was at a code orange in describing security threats, Woolsey said fears about switching from a risky dependence on Middle Eastern oil to an unhealthy reliance on lithium are unfounded. He said that while Bolivia, with which the U.S. government has concerns, is a significant supplier of lithium for batteries, Chile, Argentina, the U.S. and China also have reserves. Since lithium is also easily recyclable, "Don't be scared about Boliva," he said.

During a spirited question and answer with the audience, when asked about the prospects for natural gas, Woolsey said he was disappointed in the energy security legislation recently passed by the House because it was "tilted towards coal" instead of natural gas because of pressure from lobbyists. Woolsey said natural gas "becomes an ideal partner for renewables," because it is cleaner and easier to dispatch than coal.


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