Renewable energy storage landscapes and conflicts in the US West

Authors: Bethani Turley*, Portland State University
Topics: Energy, Land Use, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: California, renewable energy, energy storage, political ecology
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


California has long been a leader in renewable energy technologies development and implementation. Current California state mandates require 100% greenhouse gas-free energy production by 2045, and as a result have prompted a rapid rise in energy storage infrastructure proposals by developers and entrepreneurs to resolve renewable energy intermittency issues associated with solar and wind generation. Among a variety of emerging energy storage technologies, the dominant technologies today include short-duration lithium ion batteries, and long-duration pumped hydroelectric storage. Similar to renewable energy generation, energy storage technologies require both extensive surficial land use and water use. This paper uses a regional political ecology approach to examine the proposed and emergent regional energy storage infrastructure landscape that is emerging across the US West that is tied to California's urban energy demands. In particular, this paper focuses on land and water intensive projects such as pumped-hydro storage and lithium extraction for batteries, both of which are projects that serve California’s urban energy needs, but which are tied to fixed land and water resources and are typically sited in rural arid locales and in desert conservation areas.

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