Nation's Largest Battery Storage Project Charges Forward in Kern County

Lithium-ion batteries | Photo: Argonne National Laboratory/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The largest battery-based grid power storage system in North America just went online in Kern County.

With a storage capacity of 32 megawatt-hours, enough to power a typical American home for about 15 months, Southern California Edison's Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is intended to allow grid operators to store surplus power from nearby fields of wind turbines in the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.

The storage project is made up of more than 600,000 lithium ion battery cells similar to those used in electric cars, housed at Edison's Monolith Substation east of Tehachapi.

The facility at Monolith is a demonstration project funded by Edison and by the U.S. Department of Energy, and it cost about $50 million.

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As a demonstration project, the Tehachapi Energy Storage Project is intended to test the concept of battery storage rather than making a serious dent in the intermittency of wind energy. Planners expect 4,500 megawatts of wind turbines to be in place near Tehachapi by 2016. That means that even with its relatively large 32 megawatt-hour capacity, the Tehachapi Energy Storage Project would be able to store about 25 seconds' worth of the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area's full output.

"This installation will allow us to take a serious look at the technological capabilities of energy storage on the electric grid," said Dr. Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager in the Department' of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. "It will also help us to gain a better understanding of the value and benefit of battery energy storage."

Lessons learned from the demonstration project won't just apply to wind facilities: with limited tweaking, the same storage technology could be used to share energy from decentralized small generation such as rooftop solar.

"The role of energy storage in the electric grid will continue to increase with the growth of renewable energy and distributed energy systems," said Sung-Hoon Jang, vice president of the Energy Solution Company at LG Chem, which provided the lithium-ion battery cells. "Our collaboration with SCE will provide key insights for current and future energy storage projects."

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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