Demand response, where electricity customers moderate their usage based on price and availability, is a critical strategy for balancing renewables on the grid (and for making the grid more efficient in general). Grid operators could start tapping into a powerful source, at least in California, Florida, and other warm states:
Through local intelligence — in the form of a chip on each device or a home computer for many devices — the collection of one million pools in Florida can be harnessed as massive batteries. Through one-way communication, each pool will receive a regulation signal from the grid operator. The pool will change state from on to off based on its own requirements, such as recent cleaning hours, along with the needs of the grid. Just as in the office building, each consumer will be assured of desired service.
Pools are, of course, just one example of a hungry but flexible load.
Of course, pools aren’t a great solution for droughts, but you get the idea. This option (demand response generally) is probably the cheapest and best bet for integrating variable renewables like solar and wind. It will still require infrastructure investment (note the microchips required on appliances) and better networking and rate design, but it’s doable and should be a priority. In the long run though, we’ll still need large-scale energy storage, whether it’s batteries or pumped hyrdo or some other technology.