You’ve heard the criticism of wind power: the sharp rises and falls in output as wind speed variations make it an unreliable contributor to the grid, forcing power managers to hold large reserves. Locating wind farms in diverse locations can help mitigate the problem, but the holy grail of wind power might be storage. Being able to store surplus energy could well smooth out wind’s peak and valleys.

It’s an issue Southern California Edison (SCE), hoping to pump more wind power from the Tehachapi region into the grid, is exploring with the help of a new $25 million federal grant. In a press release, the company said the U.S. Department of Energy is handing over the stimulus funds so it can develop and conduct a comprehensive demonstration of lithium-ion battery storage for energy generated by wind projects.

image via Southern California Edison

SCE and its partners are matching the federal bucks with $29.9 million, including $1 million from the California Energy Commission, putting the project’s overall cost at almost $55 million.

The test will take place at an SCE substation that serves the Tehachapi area, about 100 miles north of LA. The battery, made by U.S. manufacturer A123 Systems, will be installed in early 2012 and be tested for two years, with project results anticipated in early 2015.

“We expect that the ability to dynamically manage the grid through large scale advanced lithium-ion battery systems will be a necessary innovation to realize the promise of a smarter, cleaner energy grid,” said A123 Systems Vice President Robert Johnson.

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