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Gas goes out again as top US utility SCE picks energy storage instead

Another recent SCE project, which pairs GE gas turbine engines with battery energy storage. Image: SCE/GE.

Southern California Edison, one of the US’ top-ranking utilities for energy storage capacity already deployed, has signed contracts for seven more clean energy projects, totalling 195MW in its California service area.

The company has announced contracts for six energy storage facilities and one demand response contract. In April 2018, Smart Electric Power Alliance statistics showed that SCE was the leading utility in the US in the preceding year for deployment across the US, with more than 50MW going online. The utility is one of California’s three major investor-owned utility companies in a group which includes the embattled PG&E and SDG&E, which was joint-leader with SCE in the aforementioned rankings. The IOUs are each mandated to deploy a significant share of a 1.5GW target for energy storage deployment by the mid-2020s.

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However, a release sent by SCE to over the weekend said that unlike many previous solicitations for large-scale energy storage in the US and elsewhere, the latest 195MW procurement will directly address local network needs including the shortfall in gas generation locally in the wake of the Aliso Canyon disaster. 

Aliso Canyon’s big leak resulted in some of the world’s fastest deployments of grid-scale storage, as covered extensively on this site. In continuing efforts to provide adequate capacity to the local area, SCE put out the Aliso Canyon Energy Storage 2 Request For Offers and Local Capacity Requirements Request For Proposals, this year and last, respectively.

‘Supporting a clean energy vision for California’

The energy storage systems will be connected to two substations, at Santa Clara and Goleta, with Aliso Canyon Energy Storage 2 also helping supply local network services.

The largest of the seven projects will be a 100MW system contracted to Strata, with the seven coming online commercially either by December 2020 or March 2021.

SCE, a subsidiary of Edison International, awaits regulatory approval from the California Public Utilities Commission for the projects. The utility did not reveal the expected duration of the storage systems, however recent projects to replace gas in California and elsewhere have typically seen two to four-hour systems deployed. The 100MW system at 400MWh would be one of the biggest systems today, albeit by its expected completion date of 2021 it will likely have more competition. 

“Unlike other solicitations to increase the generation capacity of the overall electric system, this solicitation specifically sought to meet local needs in the Moorpark area and address electrical energy storage needs related to restricted natural gas operations at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Field. SCE targeted clean energy resources through an accelerated competitive bidding to meet this identified need before summer 2021. The solicitation results also support SCE’s clean energy vision for California,” SCE vice president of energy procurement & management, Colin Cushnie said. 

Southern California Edison selected demand response resources as well as energy storage from the latest solicitation, while choosing no natural gas generation at all. In a recent PV Tech POWER article, several industry sources and experts also highlighted the competitiveness of solar-plus-storage versus natural gas peaker plants in many parts of the US. 

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