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Energy from Ice and the World's Largest Battery; Texas Looks to Join the Energy Storage Game

8ed6dc63-ae69-4fff-a9a1-b2267956fde9Ever since California’s Public Utilities Commission announced a new energy storage mandate last year, the storage market in California has exploded. Last week, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced that it would acquire 250 MW of energy storage system as part of a larger plan to acquire 2,221 MW of new generation assets. This week we learned more details of SCE’s overall plans for the future of its energy storage.

SCE is entering into a 20-year power-purchase agreement with AES Energy Storage to build what will be the world’s largest electrochemical battery, a 100-megawatt “in-front-of-meter” battery system. The system, which will be installed in a single large building at Alamitos Power Center in Long Beach, CA, must be completed by January 1, 2021. John Zahurancik, president of AES Energy Storage, said this contract “marks the emergence of energy storage as a cost-effective alternative to peaking power plants for local power capacity and reliability.”

In the more immediate future, at least 25 MW of storage will come from ice-making air conditioners.  Ice Energy, the company behind the air conditioning units, takes advantage of lower electricity rates at night to cool water into ice, and then uses the ice to cool the buildings during the day. In total, Ice Energy won sixteen contracts to deploy a total of about 2,500 units in West Los Angeles.

Elsewhere, other utilities have taken note of the potential of energy storage. Oncor Electric Delivery Co., headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has expressed interest in investing more than $2 billion in a battery storage system in the state (subscription required). Oncor commissioned a study from the Brattle Group that estimated that three to five gigawatts of distributed storage, installed and integrated with the grid, would be the most cost-effective amount for the area of the state managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The study found that a customer’s monthly bill could fall by more than 30 cents by 2020 with the installation of three GW of storage. Edward Klump, writing for E&E News, notes that the savings could be even greater. “Potential savings related to storage, for certain customers, [could reach] 91 cents a month in reliability benefits,” although those savings may not be reflected directly in the bill.

“Considering both the impact on electricity bills and improved reliability of grid-integrated storage, the customer benefits would significantly exceed costs,” Judy Chang, a Brattle principal and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

With all the media coverage, energy storage is well on its way to becoming one of the top advanced energy news stories of 2014. Look back on what stories topped the 2013 list by clicking here, and make sure you don’t miss this year’s list by signing up for AEE Weekly!


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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 23, 2014

Lexie, apparently you’re unaware, or are deliberately concealing, what all of this storage will be storing: mostly dirty energy generated from fossil fuels. The remaining 90% of SCE’s new “generation assets” are new natural gas plants, and there is no energy coming “from” ice –  it’s more energy stored from the combustion of natural gas, cheaper but far less efficiently than burning gas alone.

The fossil fuel industry must be ecstatic they’ve been able to enlist the renewables movement in this deception with such facility. Including believing that commissioned public relations, from “The Brattle Group”, deserve to be identified as “studies”.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Nov 23, 2014


Doesn’t CA have some wind energy at night? And as of the moment, nuclear? 

The other thing about making ice is that in a dry environment, it really cools off at night so you are better of pumping heat out of a building at night.

I do that myself on a small scale. If it is cool in the morning but going to be hot, I run the AC early in the day for a while and then the AC doesn’t come on again until quite late in the day.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 23, 2014

Hops, California’s electricity mix is currently made up of about twice as much fossil energy (coal and gas) as renewables and nuclear combined. Between 5-10% of stored energy is wasted, so it’s dirtier, by a similar proportion, than using electricity as it’s generated.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Nov 24, 2014

I think energy storage is one of those things that does not privatize very well at all.  The profitability of private storage will alway depend on market and rate structure, and it is very hard to design a market that rewards the things that ratepayers value the most.  For example, in most competitive markets, electricity producers bid energy at production (variable) cost, and assume that they’ll be paid above their bid often enough that they can cover their fixed costs and profit.Effectively, they provide reliable capacity for free. 

Like variable (non-dispatchable) energy supplies, storage that depends on price spreads is a variable energy source, that (depending on local climate) adds little to reliability, and reduces the number of hours per year that peaking plants can help pay their fixed costs.

Also, by managing the storage under the same control as the dispatchable generation, total costs (and/or total pollution) can be minimized. 

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Nov 24, 2014

so it’s dirtier, by a similar proportion, than using electricity as it’s generated.”

Storage couple directly with wind or solar would not be dirty. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Nov 26, 2014

Good point Mark, except that because renewables and battery capacity are still a long way from meeting demand grid-wide, the 5-10% of renewable energy lost in storage will be replaced by dispatchable fossil sources.

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