- Southern California has a brand new, 230-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage farm.
- The idea is similar to Elon Musk's backup facilities in South Australia—but way bigger.
- Local governments are doing rolling blackouts to cope with high energy demand during the heatwave.
The ongoing heatwave in California has caused rolling blackouts that some have blamed on renewable energy, which is hard to regulate without an adequate battery backup. And, like manna from heaven, now the world’s largest battery backup facility is up and running in San Diego.
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The facility stores up to 230 megawatts of power with plans to expand up to 250, both dwarfing and setting a new challenge for similar Tesla facilities in rural Australia and others around the world.
Why has the heatwave stretched the California grid to this extent? Anytime there’s a heatwave, people turn up their air conditioners, which are among the most energy-intensive appliances on the market. When the heat is enough to constitute a health hazard, it’s hard to argue that civilians should turn off the AC—especially when people can’t comfortably gather to share resources because of the COVID-19 pandemic and closures. Think of everyone who might normally spend the afternoon at a movie theater on the hottest days of the year.
Instead, people in individual homes are cranking up the AC to match the hazardous heat. That creates an over-demand on the grid, and to compensate, electrical suppliers often plan rolling blackouts to ensure the deprivation of services is, at least, uniform. This is where a battery backup comes in.
The “peak hours” for power usage in the summer coincide with the hottest, most dangerous part of days that have already been record high temperatures. A battery facility stores energy during off-peak times and releases it back into the grid during peak times.
Some solar customers already have their own small version of this, where their panels “sell” energy back into the grid at peak times in order to offset their energy bills. In California, so many people and facilities use solar power that the peak hours don’t start until the sun goes down, because that’s when demand shifts back to the state’s traditional power plants.
“The state’s grid operator has said that adding more storage capacity would help it meet demand in the evenings when solar power starts to wane,” Bloomberg reports.
Sponsoring organization LS Power is a billion-dollar energy venture, and the Gateway Energy Storage lithium-ion battery farm is just one project in a huge portfolio. Having a gigantic storage facility tied to the grid can make a huge difference, like Elon Musk’s South Australia facility that can hold the local grid for up to an hour of instability. Most places have a fallback plan in the form of a backup power plant, the same way hospitals keep diesel generators.
But there’s a gap between when the grid gives out and when the backup facility can be kicked into gear, and even a small battery facility can help ease this gap time when it can make a huge difference. Southern California also has water-powered gravity battery facilities, and when it comes to energy, the more sources and redundancies in place, the better.
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