Janice Lin Is an Advocate For the Sun and Wind
The Berkeley consultant helps companies, utilities, and governments move toward greater use of alternative energy.
Courtesy Lea Smith Portraits
(page 1 of 2)
Janice Lin compares the idea behind energy storage to the concept of making jam.
“Fruits ripen in the fall,” Lin said. “So let’s stick them in a jar and put some sugar in; we can eat it whenever we want. Same with energy storage; we can bottle it. We can use it whenever you want.”
New technologies for energy storage will be increasingly important as society replaces fossil fuels with alternative energy sources. Despite their many environmental drawbacks, fossil fuels possess one key advantage over the sun or wind. Such fuels can be burned at the precise moment that power is needed and saved whenever the demand for electricity wanes. In contrast, alternative energy sources such as the sun, wind, or tides produce power according to the cycles of nature and not the ever-changing power demands of telephones, appliances, or vehicles. For alternative energy to become ubiquitous, therefore, new methods must be found to store energy when nature provides it and to release energy when humans desire it.
Through her Berkeley company Strategen Consulting, and the energy storage advocacy organization California Energy Storage Alliance, Lin has been a pioneer in helping companies find cleaner, more affordable alternatives to fossil fuel.
She uses her background in business and international relations to advise companies on how they can implement alternative energy programs. Lin is an expert in the complicated rules and planning processes used within the highly regulated power sector. She also has a knack for tapping into funding for research and development as well as federal and state grants for smart grids, energy storage, and renewable energy technologies.
For most people, the very notion of energy storage is inseparable from batteries. But Lin points out that there are many other ways to store power. Ice cubes, for example, are another everyday form of energy storage. Some companies seeking a new way to store energy now make ice when they have a surplus of nighttime power, and then use that ice to power midday air-conditioning when the demand and price of electricity are much higher.
Hydropower dams are another familiar storage technology. Some of Lin’s clients are applying the theory behind dams to store water at a higher elevation when power is cheap and then releasing that water as an energy source when the demand for electricity is higher. Other companies are using alternative energy to compress air, spin flywheels, or even just move rocks up a hill as a means of storing cheap energy for later use.
These and other storage technologies are gaining momentum in California. To further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, California has pledged to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Such energy not only reduces pollution, but also enables power customers to use local sources of energy and create local jobs.
Strategen provides consulting to renewable energy manufacturers, large corporations, and government agencies interested in clean-energy markets. The company’s clients have ranged from equipment makers seeking guidance on how to price their products to real estate developers interested in learning how to make their communities more sustainable. They are a diverse set of clients, including Bosch, Walmart, and Puget Sound Energy. Recently, Lin advised the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources on energy storage; a study of the results comes out this month.
Following an unfulfilling job during the first dotcom boom, Lin started Strategen in 2005. “Just like that, I said I want to focus on renewable energy,” she said. “I wanted to do something my kids would be proud of.”
On a typical day, Lin might meet with Assembly members and find new ways to spread awareness about the alternative power industry.