Kings County Getting First Battery Storage Plant

“The future is going to overwhelmingly be solar plus battery. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.” – Elon Musk

Kings County is processing a conditional-use permit to build a 20-acre, six-phase battery storage facility, designed to work with nearby utility-size solar plants to save and deliver electric power to the grid in morning and evening hours. The logic of storage technology – one can save energy you produce for when it is needed the most. It works when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine.

The California PUC has mandated that utilities contract to buy 1,325 MW of battery storage by 2020, and some of it right now. PG&E has awarded a contract to NY-based Convergent Energy for 10MW of DC powered batteries that will be set up at a site near the Henrietta substation near Lemoore, that is already surrounded by a sea of solar farms.

Criss-crossed by major transmission lines and popular with solar farm developers, Kings County is likely going to get more of these next generation of renewable energy facilities in coming years.

Henrietta D Energy Storage LLC, is a 10-MW distribution-connected, stand-alone zinc-air battery energy storage resource with a discharge duration of four hours. It will be located at 16885 25th Ave., near NAS Lemoore. The expected initial delivery date is May 1, 2020, with a term of 20 years.

While the first phase of the project is a modest 10 megawatts, the conditional permit calls for up to 187 megawatts, some 760 boxcar-size power units, that will look like a white city from the Avenal Cutoff highway.

Kings County has been a hotbed of solar activity in the past few years with more coming. That includes several large Recurrent Energy solar farms near this proposed battery plant including the new NAS Lemoore 167MW solar facility on 930 acres at the base. In a nod to defense security, the Navy has favored battery storage technology for the base, home of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, to be more self-sufficient and to ensure the lights stay on – even if the grid goes dark.

Convergent Energy spokesman Frank Genova, the firm’s CFO, says they have “big plans for the expansion of this site that will depend on how fast demand increases” for stored energy in the area. Genova says “technology improvements and increased production has driven battery costs down,” helping to spur more installations, particularly in California. The oil and offshore renewable energy giant Statoil, recently made a large equity investment in Convergent.

Clearly falling prices are helping with one source saying the price of lithium ion batteries dropped 90 percent between 1990 and 2005, and has continued dropping.  Meanwhile, California has been the most aggressive at using the new technology to help replace power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant, and soon-to-be-closed Diablo Canyon.

Helping to drive down the cost for batteries has been the construction of the Elon Musk-inspired Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada that opened in December. Tesla has been behind the opening of a new 80MW battery storage facility for SCE located near Los Angeles that fired up last year. It helped replace power lost from the big natural gas leak at the Sempra Energy’s Aliso Canyon storage facility in 2015 that backed up intermittent power from wind and solar farms.

Battery storage is only one type of storage technology. Pumped hydro has been used by PG&E in Sierra at the huge Helms plant for decades to store and release power when needed, moving water uphill  when it is cheap at night.

In related news, PG&E also has announced it would contract with Amber Kinetics to build 20MW, four-hour duration Gen-2 Flywheel Systems. The company says it believes its steel flywheel technology will drive down pricing while enhancing operational safety and flexibility for utility-scale energy storage. Until now, commercial flywheel system capabilities were measured in minutes, with limited usefulness to electric utilities seeking to integrate renewable energy at transmission and micro-grid levels.

Amber Kinetics’ technology offers critical advantages over batteries, says the firm. Even with unlimited cycling during their 30-year lifespan, the systems have no degradation. Because they are 98 percent steel by weight, they pose no risk of fire, chemical explosion or hazardous materials release. Most important, because they are manufactured from readily available, abundant raw materials and don’t need replacement at regular intervals, they are significantly more cost effective than batteries.

Energy Nuevo, Amber Kinetics’ 20 MW project located in the city of Fresno, was selected by PG&E in California’s first energy storage solicitation. It is believed to be one of the largest ever for a transmission level flywheel system. Energy Nuevo will provide energy storage beginning in 2020.

Also PG&E selected Hecate Energy for a 1MW lithium ion energy storage facility at the old Kearney substation.

Kings County Getting First Battery Storage Plant, by John Lindt, The Sentinel, March 16, 2017.

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