GPI Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Road Trip

July 30, 2015 in Electricity Author: Mike Gregerson

Our week long renewable energy and storage road trip started in Denver ended in Long Beach, CA. These areas are at the center of many electricity system changes brought about by California’s drive to clean energy.

We had already visited NREL’s new Energy Facilities Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, CO and had good meetings with Xcel Energy and RES America regarding their work in energy storage.

We also toured the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System near Las Vegas, a 3-unit solar thermal power system based on mirror and steam tower technology capable of generating over 400MW.

We then toured the Desert Sunlight Solar PV plant near Palm Springs, CA which is a pure PV play with over 8 MILLION (yes that’s Million)  panels capable of generating over 500MW of electricity.

The only solar generating technology we were not able to visit was the parabolic mirror tube technology which uses either oil or molten salt to store heat and generate electricity. There are projects in Arizona and one being built in CA which would definitely be worth a visit in the future. We were very impressed by the openness and frankness of both tour guides at Ivanpah and Desert Sunlight and have a number of insights we will share in other blogs.

Finishing with a visit to AES

All of this leads us to AES Southland which is doing amazing things with energy storage and natural gas power plants in the Los Angeles area. We visited the AES Southland facility in Long Beach which currently has 6 older natural gas power plants. These are used as peaking power and system reserve capacity in a PPA with Southern California Edison (SCE).

AES has won several battery energy storage projects in CA with SCE along with new Combined Cycle Natural Gas power plants (CCNG). All of these facilities will be built at the Long Beach and Huntington Beach plant locations. AES plans on installing 100 MW of Samsung Lithium-Ion batteries at the Long Beach location. This battery installation will be capable of a 4 hour discharge and will work in concert with the natural gas facilities to serve SCE customers. AES is also designing the facility to hold up to 300MW of battery storage since the reaction of SCE planners has been very positive to the potential economic and reliability benefits of the battery storage units.

We were able to see a demonstration rack of batteries at the AES facility and it is truly amazing. The battery packs come in cardboard boxes the size of a stereo receiver and get put into a vertical rack, plugged into each other in groups of 8. Each group is then hooked up to the distribution collection grid with a set of plug in wires. AES said construction is literally done in hours for each rack.

We all felt that the AES people had a good handle on the future electric system requirements of this new distributed and clean energy system and we are hopeful that enough will be learned in the LA area to help other utilities, RTO’s and regulators become more comfortable with the options and benefits presented by an integrated renewable energy and energy storage system.