A Zondits Rundown: AES Corporation to Power an Electricity Evolution in Los Angeles
- By 2021 the Los Angeles “peaker,” a natural gas-burning power plant in Long Beach, will be replaced by the world’s largest storage battery, capable of holding and delivering over 100 megawatts of power an hour for four hours.
- For reference, the output of 100 MW is roughly a tenth of the power delivered by a modern nuclear power plant.
- California’s Public Utilities Commission set a target requiring utilities to build their capacity to store energy, to use more renewable energy and to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.
- Southern California Edison Co., picked the designer of the battery, AES Corp., an Arlington, Va., company, against 1,800 other offers to replace the peaker.
- More than 18,000 lithium ion battery packs would replace a gas-fired power plant used to meet peak demand in Long Beach.
- And those needs have been particularly crucial in recent months, as warming summer weather coincides with the much-documented troubles at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.
- GTM Research forecasts that the annual U.S. energy storage market will be valued at $2.5 billion by 2020.
World’s Largest Storage Battery Will Power Los Angeles
Scientific America, July 7, 2016
The mega-battery won’t be up and running for five years, and Southern California needs more energy storage capacity yesterday. Officials warn that this summer, the region could face as many as 14 days of scheduled blackouts because of a huge leak earlier this year at the Porter Ranch natural gas storage facility. While the leak has stopped, the facility—which feeds fuel to 17 Los Angeles-area power plants—may not be fully recovered and tested for months.
Meanwhile, other utilities are suddenly feeling the need to store substantial quantities of electricity. As John Zahurancik, president of AES’s energy storage company, put it, “It’s a bit of a Wild West open market right now.”
The United Kingdom is shopping for energy storage systems to be installed around London, and New York state, Hawaii and Chile are looking at energy storage as an alternative to building more expensive power plants.
What’s driving this scenario is a growing abundance of cheap solar and wind power and entrepreneurs looking for ways to store and sell more of it. Meanwhile, power projections of older coal- and gas-fired power plants are leading owners to shut more down, leaving more gaps in electricity distribution systems because they will no longer be able to compete with cheaper solar and wind power.
“We’re already caught up in the onset of a major transformation that’s going to happen. There are over a million solar rooftops now” in the United States, explained Guenter Conzelmann, a power sector analyst at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.
Within two or three years, he estimates, there could be as many as 800,000 electric vehicles in the United States, an event that could drive prices for lithium-ion batteries further down and result in the storage of more renewable energy in the suburbs, at the edges of power systems that feed cities.
LARGE-SCALE SOLAR BATTERIES GO FROM ‘CUTE’ TO CRITICAL
So far, most utilities have finessed the issue of accumulating solar power by allowing homeowners with solar arrays to sell some of their power back to the grid, a practice called net metering.
“You’re basically using the grid as a battery. This is why some utilities are a little bit leery about this. The big question is, who pays for it?” said Haresh Kamath, a senior manager at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a nonprofit group funded by the electric utility industry.
Big, grid-sized batteries can run into the millions of dollars, but the damages from blackouts and power surges caused by wildly fluctuating voltages can easily run into the billions.