U.S. utility unveils largest battery system in North America

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2014

One of the nation’s largest utilities today unveiled the biggest battery system in North America, which will store energy generated by wind farms outside Mojave, Calif., and provide critical information for the design and operation of storage on the grid.

Southern California Edison (SCE) financed the 32-megawatt-hour battery system that cost $50 million, half of which was funded by a 2009 smart grid stimulus grant from the Energy Department, according to the company. The demonstration project will test the performance, integration and automation of a lithium-ion battery storage system and “smart inverter” technology into the grid over a two-year period, Doug Kim, director of advanced technology at SCE, said in a statement.

“This demonstration project will give us a significant amount of insight into the operational capabilities of large-scale, lithium-ion battery storage,” Kim said.

LG Chem Ltd., based in Seoul, South Korea, provided the battery design and installation, which features lithium-ion batteries — the same cells found in Chevy Volt electric vehicles — housed inside a nondescript, beige 6,300-square-foot warehouse at SCE’s Monolith substation. The system is made up of 604 battery racks, 10,872 battery modules and 608,832 individual battery cells, according to LG Chem.

“The role of energy storage in the electric grid will continue to increase with the growth of renewable energy and distributed energy systems, and our collaboration with SCE will provide key insights for current and future energy storage projects,” said Sung-Hoon Jang, vice president of the Energy Solution Co. at LG Chem.

The 8-megawatt system is a step toward meeting a state target of 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020 set last year by the California Public Utilities Commission. SCE must own about one-quarter of that capacity and procure about 580 MW altogether.

Wind energy is often strongest during nighttime, when power demand is low, so energy storage could help smooth out and exploit the full potential of the Tehachapi wind resource area. The wind farm could generate up to 4,500 MW of energy by 2016, SCE said.