It’s Friday, January 20, and California regulators have approved seven big renewable energy projects.

A solar farm in Central California

The California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that regulates utility companies in the Golden State, approved 800 megawatts of new solar and battery storage projects this week as part of a broader effort to ensure Californians can get reliable power through 2026.

Commissioners signed off on four contracts from Southern California Edison and three from San Diego Gas & Electric — all but one of which are for battery projects, which allow energy generated by solar and wind to be saved up and deployed when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. The remaining contract, the Edwards Sanborn Solar Storage Facility from San Diego Gas & Electric, is for a hybrid solar-and-battery facility that the developer hopes will be the world’s largest of its kind. Upon completion, it could provide enough power for more than 158,000 homes.

The approvals come about a year and a half after the California Public Utilities Commission put out its largest-ever call for clean energy projects, voting in 2021 to approve 11,500 megawatts of new capacity from renewables and battery storage. California officials and utility companies have said the new capacity is needed to protect the grid from wildfires, extreme heat, and pounding downpours supercharged by climate change.

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New storage projects can help grid operators respond to “high-demand events, heat waves, or when the energy grid is strained,” David Song, a spokesperson for Southern California Edison, told the website Utility Dive. Last September, sweltering temperatures in California pushed the grid to the brink of failure as grid operators narrowly avoided rolling blackouts.

The new projects from Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are expected to come online by June 2024, though two could be up and running as early as this June. They’ll add to the state’s existing battery capacity of 3,860 megawatts. To reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across California’s economy, the state will need to add some 40,000 megawatts of new battery storage over the next two decades, according to a recent analysis from San Diego Gas & Electric.

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