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Growth of System Storage at Decommissioned Fossil Fuel Plant Sites

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Roy Morrison's picture
president, Roy morrison & Associates LLC
  • Member since 2008
  • 3 items added with 1,702 views
  • Jan 27, 2021

This item is part of the State of the Industry 2021 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

The replacement of natural gas peaker plants by battery storage installations in now underway in California as part of the state’s commitment to a renewable energy future. Southern California Edison (SCE) signed contracts in May 2020 for 750 megawatts  from 7 storage projects to be online by August 2021.

In November 2019, California regulators had called for the development of 3.3 gigawatts in system storage in California. The 2020 SCE effort is one manifestation.

A typical new storage install is Strata Solar building a 100 megawatt/400 megawatt hour lithium battery system in Oxnard for SCE that should be online in early 2021 to supplant a planned 262 MW gas peaker plant.

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Storage systems have a few notable characteristics. First, they can be sited, licensed and built in a year or less compared to the multi-year planning and regulatory agonies of new fossil fuel plant construction. Second, they have zero on site fuel costs, and if charged from a  renewable grid they have zero greenhouse gas (GHG) or any other emissions. Third,as system storage resources, they can be operating separately from renewable energy generation. Fourth, they can be sited to take advantage of existing transmission lines constructed to serve now decommissioned fossil fuel power plants with their robust transmission lines and substations. Given requisite control software, gird storage system can easily provide needed peaking and voltage and frequency balancing services.

It’s often been remarked that the transformation to a renewable energy system does not require construction of the fossil fuel type large scale transmission and distribution grid. But it’s now also clear that the existing robust transmission lines and system of distribution feeds can be creatively employed to speed up and facilitate the movement for 100% renewable and storage energy systems grid.

To gain the needed system storage capacity, the requisite number of storage megawatts hour capacity can be optimized and distributed in the grid system using existing transmission lines as a guide and as a ready made source for interconnection in almost plug and play fashion using intelligent software and control systems table to respond to fluctuating grid conditions and needs.

Planning for rapid transformation to a 100% renewable grid means planning to address a combination of increased electric demand, for example, for  charging many millions of electric vehicles also servings as grid connected batteries. This means designing effective system storage to replace peaking plants and employ Vehicle to Gird (VTG) and Vehicle to Home (VTH) charging ports and control software.

A comprehensive plan for 100% renewables upgrades grid transmission, substations, feeders as required to support both system large scale renewable generation plants and storage as well as distributed generation and distributed storage all over the grid as well as the growth of large numbers of distributed micro grids with their own storage and renewable generation resources. Optimization of solar, for example, can employ new dual facing panels with high albedo ground covers taking advantage of indirect light and oriented West-East to have their output production closer to utility morning and afternoon peaks.

The distributed nature of the system for both energy and storage and the future genera spread of micro-grids makes the use of malware resistant control systems measuring local voltage and frequency possible and able to ignore harmful malware signals and maintain grid stability. If  grid voltage and frequency is outside of acceptable levels, micro-grids can separate from the grid and come back in line very quickly using  a mix of renewable generation and storage.

Use of Abandoned Fossil Fuel Plants as Storage and Interconnection Hubs

Retired fossil fuel plants are generally ideal locations for both large scale system storage and renewable interconnection, particularly for offshore wind and tidal power. For example, the retired Brayton Point coal plant in Fall River MA is now being redeveloped to provide offshore wind service for construction and maintenance. It is ideal location for wind transmission into the grid. This should be combined with large scale storage capacity that can provide hundreds of megawatts of stored wind energy during peak hours.

The optimized storage system is more than lithium batteries with 4MWH capacity per MW. This shroud be combined wth super-capacitors capable of responding very quickly and effectively to short term voltage and frequency fluctuations by sudden loads, for example, fast charging EVs during rush hour. Added shroud be fly wheels capable of quickly responding to power demand peaks as a kind storage peaking plants when current demands will both current peak needs as well as exceed the  4 hour capacity of batteries.

The effective and sometimes inspired and effective use of discarded materials is known as bricolage. Bricolage  is typically applied to the ability of people to make do with what’s at hand usually applied to the creative struggles of the poor, of farmers and mechanics. The existing transmission and distribution network gives us an outstanding opportunity for 21st century bricolage to bring the 100% renewable grid into operation as quickly as possible.

We need to approach future storage possibilities and needs with open eyes. Opportunity is loudly knocking.


SEC Secures 750 MW storage for 2021

Brayton Point Wind Port


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 27, 2021

"Second, they have zero on site fuel costs, and if charged from a  renewable grid they have zero greenhouse gas (GHG) or any other emissions."

Roy, California doesn't have a renewable grid. The stated goal is to have one by 2045, but there is no concrete plan on how to get there.

In the meantime, batteries are worse than gas plants. Due to system losses, they're responsible for adding anywhere from 107-450 kg/MWh of CO2e emissions to the existing grid mix. The cost of battery capacity capable of powering California for a single cloudy, calm day without renewables is multiples of our entire state budget.

Now is the time to give up on the idea  "renewables + batteries" was ever, or ever will be, an environmentally resrponsible solution for lowering our state's GHG emissions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 27, 2021

Is there any benefit as well to having these fossil plants that go  under, and their employees put out of a job, being able to be first in line for the new jobs created? 

Roy Morrison's picture
Roy Morrison on Feb 24, 2021

Bob Meinetz comments that storage is a black hole since batteries alone could not power CA. That's not the roe for storage in a renewable rid system. 

Storage of different types play different roles. Flow batteries provide AGC services for system voltage and frequency balancing.

Lithium batteries can play peaking power needs.

Strategically placed distributed storage at end of feeders and in microgrids  greatly decreases the needs for system power resources.

And of course a renewable grid is a balance of solar/wind/geothermal/ bomass/ tidal/hydro networked on a regional basis.

Relax Bob.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 8, 2021

"Strategically placed distributed storage at end of feeders and in microgrids  greatly decreases the needs for system power resources."

Nonsense, Roy. Distributed storage "greatly decreases the needs for system power resources" only in a future fantasy world.

Same for the imaginary

"...renewable grid is a balance of solar/wind/geothermal/ bomass/ tidal/hydro networked on a regional basis."

When there's even a modest prototype of such farfetched ideas do they deserve funding. Otherwise,  they amount to a waste of both money and precious time.

Roy Morrison's picture
Roy Morrison on Feb 24, 2021

Matt Chester. I agree fossil fuel workers should be retrained for renewable resource jobs.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Feb 26, 2021

The old fossil fuel plants are also great for a large Solar system as well as the new Advanced Mega Battery Storage. The site is already connected and part of the GRID. The DAS data systems to see and manage the power is also already in place. What a great way to integrate energy for a Smart GRID.  

Jason Ford's picture
Jason Ford on Mar 4, 2021

I spent a week at Brayton Point several years ago when it was owned by Dominion Energy. I found some beautiful hand drawn architectural drawings of that station as well as the Manchester Station from the early 1900's. These sites certainly have a long history of energy production.

Ann Marie O'Connell's picture
Ann Marie O'Connell on Mar 5, 2021

That's certainly a sensible, ecologically sound re-use plan for decommissioned coal plants. Another sensible use would be to use part of the site to locate a combined cycle natural gas peaker plant to run when there's not enough (or there's far too much!) wind during a period of very high power demand.

Peter Key's picture
Peter Key on Mar 8, 2021

I think the largest storage project proposed for the site of a decommissioned power plant is probably the $3.6 billion, 2,200 megawatt pumped-storage hydropower facility that would use water from Lake Powell and the existing transmission infrastructure at the retired Navajo Generating Station coal plant near Page, Ariz.

The Navajo Energy Storage Station was proposed by Daybreak Power, which announced in January that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has accepted its application for a preliminary permit for the project.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Mar 10, 2021

Sounds like a great project. Hydro is very powerful. 

Roy Morrison's picture
Thank Roy for the Post!
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