The world's largest battery storage substation is now live

The world's largest battery storage substation is now live

Southern California Edison (SCE) has flipped the switch on what is now the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world -- a substation with 80 megawatt hours (MWh) of capacity.

Located Ontario, Calif., the new Mira Loma substation quietly went live Dec. 30. The substation is made up of commercial-grade Tesla Powerpack 2 lithium-ion battery units.

monolith battery storage SCE

Southern California Edison engineer Grant Davis examines components in one of the 604 racks of battery modules at the Tehachapi storage substation completed last year.

When fully charged, the system will hold enough energy to power more than 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 Tesla vehicles. But that's not its purpose.

The Mira Loma facility will be used to ensure that electricity generated from photovoltaic solar and wind farms does not go to waste and can be used as a supplemental power source during peak hours of the day. The plant also acts as a buffer power source while more common gas-fired "peaker" plants are being fired up to supplement the grid.

"When you fire up a peaker plant it takes a long time," said Jude Schneider, SCE's corporate communications manager.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered SCE, PG&E and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to solicit more utility-scale energy storage solutions that could be operational by Dec. 31, 2016.

The AES Corporation's subsidiary, AES Energy Storage, won a contract from SDG&E to build two new energy storage projects, totaling 37.5MW, in San Diego County.

All three utility projects were the result of the shutdown of the Aliso Canyon natural gas reservoir, which was the source for the power plants in the region. The plant ruptured in October 2015 and spewed natural gas into the atmosphere, creating a state of emergency.

Last April, the Aliso Canyon site was permanently sealed with concrete. The methane storage plant is owned by Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) and located in the Aliso Canyon storage field near the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Over the months that it leaked, the storage facility spewed 107,000 tons of methane gas into the atmosphere and forced the evacuation of 8,000 area residents.

The Aliso Canyon facility had been feeding the network of natural gas "peaker" power plants in the Los Angeles basin. Peaker plants are typically only used to supplement  power requirements during peak demand.

In all, CPUC is requiring utilities to meet a target of 1,325MW (1.3GW) of additional power storage by 2020.

While Tesla and SCE did not disclose the price of the contract, a similar 20MW facility also being built for SCE by AltaGas Ltd. is valued at between $40 million and $45 million.

The Mira Loma battery storage project isn't SCE's first. The Tehachapi Energy Storage Project, completed last year, has 32MW of capacity. The battery storage facility, located in SCE’s Monolith substation in Tehachapi, Calif., comprises 604,832 lithium-ion battery cells housed in 10,872 modules of 56 cells each, stacked in 604 racks arranged in rows. That project took a year and a half to complete, compared to the three months it took the Mira Loma substation to be built.

monolith battery storage project SCE

The Tehachapi Energy Storage Project has 32MW of capacity.

The global energy storage market is expected to double as homes and businesses adopt battery energy to supplement rooftop solar and other renewable systems, according to research firm IHS.

Researchers predict that 378.1GW of new solar and wind generating capacity will be installed globally over the next five years, requiring a massive amount of energy storage.

Over the next decade, energy storage capacity in developing countries is expected to skyrocket from 2 gigawatts (GW) today to more than 80GW, according to a new report by the World Bank Group.

The report predicts the annual growth in energy storage capacity will exceed 40% a year over the next decade.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced earlier this month that his company is now mass producing li-ion batteries for both commercial and residential use in the company's first "gigafactory" outside Reno, Nev. Musk plans to build other gigafactories around the world.

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