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Crimson Energy Storage 350MW/1,400MWh battery storage plant comes online in California

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Project partners Canadian Solar and Axium Infrastructure have begun the operation of Crimson Energy Storage, a large-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) in Riverside County, California.

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom was among those celebrating the 350MW/1,400MWh project’s inauguration. Newsom said that it epitomised “California leadership”, including as it does “clean energy, innovation, and economic development through good, union jobs”.

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Newsom noted that fast-tracking clean energy projects like Crimson Energy Storage is important to California’s goal of reaching 100% emissions-free electricity by its 2045 target.

The newly operational standalone battery project is among the world’s largest and is in the California desert about 13 miles from the nearest city, Blythe. Sited on public land, it was the first project to be granted approval for construction on public land by the US Bureau of Land Management in the Biden-Harris era.  

It was developed by Canadian Solar’s US project development subsidiary Recurrent Energy. The vertically integrated PV company’s manufacturing and integration arm CSI Solar carried out EPC and system integration duties and will be responsible for long-term servicing.

Recurrent Energy sold off a majority 80% stake in the project to investment management firm Axium in 2021, as reported by Energy-Storage.news at the time, but the developer has retained the remaining 20%.  

The project is Canadian Solar’s first standalone battery project. It had originally been envisaged as a solar-plus-storage facility, like the rest of Recurrent Energy’s pipeline to date, but the solar PV portion was dropped by the time it came to get planning approval for its development on public lands by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

It has in place long-term tolling agreements with two of California’s main investor-owned utilities (IOUs).

Southern California Edison (SCE) has signed a 14-year and 10-month long contract for 200MW/800MWh, while Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has a 15-year contract with Canadian Solar and Axium for 150MW/600MWh.

However, the PG&E contract is essentially a capacity payment structure for Resource Adequacy (RA). RA is the main mechanism by which California’s load-serving entities like utilities must maintain reliable and sufficient power supply for their customers. With it being a capacity payment – paid to be available to put energy on the grid – the project’s owners are free to play that portion of the stored energy into CAISO wholesale markets.

Incidentally, the title of world’s biggest battery storage project is currently held by Vistra Energy’s Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility (400MW/1,600MWh), which is also in California. However, unlike Moss Landing, which was built in two phases, Crimson was built as one system throughout.

The chair of the California Energy Commission, David Hochschild, said Crimson is a major milestone for the state.

“Energy storage is an essential building block that supports our transition away from fossil fuels and the Crimson project represents a major milestone in the development of this essential clean energy resource,” Hochschild said.

The project joins California’s fleet of more than 3,000MW of BESS on the CAISO grid, with an increasing portion of assets having four-hour storage duration.

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