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PG&E Smart Grid Lab Tests Battery Storage

By Andrew Burger

Continuing to lead the transition from fossil fuels to renewables, California in October 2013 enacted AB2514, legislation that requires the state's investor-owned utilities to acquire 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020.

Earlier this month, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison issued their first request for proposals for energy storage assets that will help meet projected long-term local capacity requirements.

California grid and energy market regulators are joining with industry players and already taking the next step in the U.S. renewable energy-smart grid transition. They're building and testing microgrids in which solar photovoltaic systems are integrated with a variety of advanced energy storage technologies and the latest in real-time energy management software platforms.

Energy storage and renewable grid integration

Advanced energy storage is seen as the key to accelerating deployment and grid-integration of solar and renewable energy generation capacity, reducing peak power demand, and enhancing the reliability and resiliency of the electricity grid. Commenting on what has been a landmark year for U.S. energy storage, Ravi Manghani, GTM senior energy storage analyst, stated:
“2014 will be viewed as the year in which utilities started to embrace energy storage for the versatile technology that it is to solve various problems along the grid."

On Dec. 16, Eos Energy Storage announced that it had won a $2 million award from the California Energy Commission to build and demonstrate a “novel grid-scale battery system at PG&E's Smart Grid Lab in San Ramon, California.”

Eos's project came out on top following a review of 28 projects competing for a total $6.3 million in CEC grant funding. Its Aurora project proposal was the only advanced battery storage system awarded grant funding.

According to Eos, its Aurora battery system “can be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of existing energy storage solutions.” The Edison, New Jersey-based company is joining with PG&E, the Electric Power Research Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, distributed energy storage technology pioneer Stem and ETM Electromatic (ETM) to carry out the project.

“We’ve developed an energy storage solution designed specifically to meet the requirements of California’s utilities and industrial users. At a price of $160 per kilowatt-hour, we believe our batteries will compete with gas peaking plants and copper wire to provide both peak generation and infrastructure benefits,” Philippe Bouchard, Eos vice president of Business Development, was quoted in a press release. “We’re excited to work with the Energy Commission and a group of world-class partners to demonstrate the benefits of this system to the state of California.”

Advanced battery storage for a smarter grid

Eos's Aurora DC battery, ETM's power electronics and Stem's real-time data analytics will be installed and tested at PG&E's Smart Grid Lab in San Ramon. EPRI is to provide “program management and data validation services and coordinate safety, interconnection and system integration requirements.” Berkeley Lab will employ real-time grid simulation to assess “system benefits under dynamic load and renewable integration use cases,” Eos explains in its press release.
“Energy storage is likely to be a key element of the integrated grid and successful integration requires a complete understanding and characterization of the performance, controls and interactions under a wide range of system conditions and scenarios,”Mark McGranaghan, EPRI vice president of power delivery and utilization research, was quoted as saying. “This testing and demonstration project will help pave the way for much broader deployment of energy storage systems.”

For Eos, the CEC-funded utility-scale advanced energy storage system demo is an excellent opportunity to test its Aurora battery storage technology as it gears up to deliver battery systems at the megawatt-scale in 2016.

Encased in a container, Eos's initial Aurora 1000/4000 battery system can deliver 1 megawatt of electrical power for four continuous hours. That's enough electrical energy to reduce peak power demand and avoid the need to invest in transmission and distribution upgrades, the company highlights. Aurora also offers fast-response surge capability that can more efficiently and effectively balance fluctuations in the flow of electricity associated with solar, wind and other intermittent renewable energy grid assets.

“Storage cost reduction is the key to breaking this market wide open,” said Ben Kearns, Stem’s vice president of technology. “However, batteries need to be managed and software deployed to capture maximum benefits. Stem’s software platform and proven analytics will add value to a new battery chemistry like Eos's in early deployments and in fleet management when they move to full-scale production."

*Image credits: 1) Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project; 2), 3) Eos Energy Storage

Andrew Burger headshot

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

Read more stories by Andrew Burger