Interesting Presentations at the Summit on Energy Efficiency

I spent a few happy hours at the Santa Barbara Summit on EnergyEfficiency over the last couple of days. Most (though not all) of thepresentations were really good, and totally relevant to the audience.

I was really pleasantly surprised, because I’ve noticed thatsometimes speakers have one PowerPoint deck, and make the same talk,regardless of the audience. None of us could believe that the ladypresenting from the Office of Naval Research would spend 15 minutes on a slide, taking us through the names and ranks of dozens of people wecouldn’t have cared less about.

Also, I’m amused at the way some speakers present ideas that leavethe audience with gaping, obvious questions. Here’s a good example. Thespokesperson from Southern California Edison, whose talk was otherwiseexcellent, talked about an energy storage project that her organizationhas underway in the Tehachapi Mountains, northeast of Los Angeles. It’s a whole bunch of lithium-ion battery packs that can provide 8 megawattsfor 4 hours.

At the conclusion of her talk, I approached her, and we the following dialogue:

Craig: I’m amazed every time I hear about lithium-ion – or any otherbattery chemistry – proposed for utility-scale storage. If we’restruggling with the price of a 30 kilowatt-hour pack for an EV, is there really any trajectory for what you folks would need?

Linda: It sure would be expensive, wouldn’t it?

Craig: To be sure. Well given that, why build this 32 megawatt-hour project, which is obviously a drop in the bucket?

Linda: To be honest, I’m not sure.

Craig: Hmmm. Though I’ve heard good arguments for other ideas, to me, pumped hydro seems to be the only good storage technology — andespecially if you’re in the mountains anyway, with the natural changesin elevation.

Linda: Yes, you’re probably right.

Craig: OK, thanks very much. Good presentation!

Linda: Thanks!

See? Nice, cordial conversation, but one that left me wondering what’s going on there. It’s a strange world sometimes.