PG&E deploys its first Tesla Powerpack battery storage station

PG&E deploys its first Tesla Powerpack battery storage station

Pacific Gas and Electric has gone live with its first utility-scale, lithium-ion battery storage system.

The storage substation, located about 50 miles north of Sacramento, is made of 22 Tesla Powerpacks, each the size of a refrigerator. In all, the 500-kilowatt (KW) substation can store up to 2000KW hours (KWh) of power, enough to power up to 380 typical homes. The batteries can discharge at full power for four hours.

Co-located with PG&E's Browns Valley, Calif. substation, the battery facility will be used to balance energy supply and demand, as well as improve power quality and reliability for customers, the company said.

The Powerpack systems will charge when demand is low, then send reserved power to the grid when demand grows, providing power to address potential overloading on the substation's transformers.

Tesla gigafactory announcement Tesla

Tesla's Gigafactory outside Reno, Nev. began full production of lithium-ion batteries last month.

"Browns Valley is a great example of PG&E's commitment to integrating new technologies and collaborating with leading companies to drive a clean energy future," Roy Kuga, vice president of PG&E's Grid Integration and Innovation division, said in a statement.

PG&E's energy storage project is the result of an order by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to solicit more utility-scale energy storage projects. Along with PG&E, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) were also ordered to open more battery substations.

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

battery energy storage growth chart IHS

The top 10 leading nations deploying energy storage systems.

Last month, SCE announced the world's largest battery storage substation, with 37.5MW of capacity that can supply up to 80MWh of electricity. This is enough energy to power more than 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 Tesla vehicles.

That storage substation, located at SCE's 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 global energy storage market is expected to double this year as homes, businesses and utilities adopt battery energy storage to supplement rooftop solar and other renewable energy systems and to more evenly distribute power during peak hours, according to a recent report by IHS.

According to IHS, over the next decade lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries will become the mainstream energy-storage technology, with more than 80% of global energy storage installations including it by 2025.

Last year alone, the global energy storage market was expected to double, from 1.4 gigawatt hours (GWh or billion watt hours) added in 2015 to 2.9GWh.

Over the next decade, energy storage capacity in developing countries is expected to skyrocket 40 fold -- from 2GW today to more than 80GW, according to a recent report by the World Bank Group.

"Energy storage will play a crucial role in helping to meet demand for low-carbon electricity in developing nations," the report said. "By 2020, these countries will need to double their electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), and by 2035 will account for 80% of the total growth in energy generation and consumption globally."

Tesla last month announced that its five-million-square-foot "Gigafactory" had begun manufacturing batteries and can produce up to 35GWh of capacity a year of lithium-ion cells. This is almost as much production as the rest of the world's manufacturing facilities combined. The batteries will be used in Tesla's all-electric vehicles as well as in products for consumers and businesses.

Tesla sells two forms of lithium-ion battery storage units, the Powerwall 2 for home use, and the Powerpack 2 for businesses and utilities like PG&E.

Powerpack units contain 16 replaceable lithium-ion battery "pods," each with its own DC converter. The Powerpacks, which can store 50KW of power, can be daisy-chained together to create an infinite amount of energy storage capacity, according to Tesla.

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