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Goldman Sachs-backed standalone energy storage startup Gridstor building first project in California

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Updated 8 June 2023: Gridstor VP of policy and strategy Jason Burwen offered some more details on the project to Energy-Storage.news. The Goleta facility is a merchant resource, but has a resource adequacy (RA) contract with utility Southern California Edison (SCE), he said. The project is contracted for to provide 40MW of resource adequacy (RA) at 4-hour duration, but has been sized “with the larger 60MW inverter to allow us to respond with greater supply if energy price signals on the California grid signal a higher need,” Burwen said. Tesla Megapack BESS units are being used for the project.

On the company’s strategy and ambitions, Jason Burwen noted that the company’s backing from Goldman Sachs Asset Management (which originated the Goleta project before it was transferred to Gridstor in 2022), “positions us well to critically evaluate positions and acquire battery storage projects throughout the development lifecycle, from early-stage ideas to turnkey operating projects”.

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“We additionally have a growing development team focused on originating and developing greenfield projects in key markets. We are evaluating opportunities to invest over US$1 billion across the US in locations with an urgent need for energy storage.”

Burwen, known in the industry as the former policy lead and later interim CEO of the Energy Storage Association (ESA, since merged with the American Clean Power Association), joined Gridstor a few months ago.

US energy storage developer Gridstor has announced the start of construction of its first project, a 60MW/160MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) in California.

The Portland, Oregon-headquartered startup was founded last year, and has the backing of Horizon Energy Storage, a fund managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s Sustainable and Infrastructure Investing groups.

Gridstor said last week (31 May) that cranes were putting into place the 44 containerised battery blocks (pictured above) which will comprise the energy storage system, in the California city of Goleta, Santa Barbara County.  

It will occupy 25,000 square feet of a 2.6-acre industrial and commercial lot in the small coastal city, and according to Gridstor is the largest battery storage project in Santa Barbara County, as well as being only its second. The first appears to have been a 700kW system deployed by Tesla at the County’s Cater Water Treatment plant.

While the company’s release on the project was light on specifics – Energy-Storage.news has asked Gridstor a few questions and hopes to be able to update this story accordingly – it did say that adding resiliency to the local community’s electricity supply is a key reason for its installation.

Gridstor said it chooses strategic locations for its standalone grid-connected energy storage projects where the demand for them is greatest. In the case of the community around Goleta’s Cortona Drive, where the project is being built, electricity comes via a limited amount of high-voltage infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the area is prone to electricity supply disruptions from wildfires to mudslides and earthquakes, while Santa Barbara County is largely dependent on fossil fuel resources, including Ellwood Generating Station, a gas-fired peaker plant. The batteries in the Gridstor system will help the community store and utilise more renewable energy, the company said, including during blackouts.

As regular readers of this site will know, California has become the standout leader for grid-scale BESS installations, with more than 5GW and around 20GWh online already. The state’s Clean Energy Transition Plan, published in an updated version recently, emphasises heavily the role energy storage will play in enabling it to achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2045, while maintaining stability of electricity supply and managing the retirement of legacy thermal generation resources.

Energy-Storage.news previously covered Gridstor when the company bought a 500MW/2,000MWh portfolio of in-development BESS projects in Los Angeles from renewable energy and energy storage developer Upstream Energy.

Those projects are due to come online between 2024 and 2026, while the project in Goleta is scheduled to come online in the Fall of this year. While the Upstream Energy portfolio comprised four-hour duration projects to meet California’s resource adequacy requirements, Goleta appears to be a 2.6-hour duration asset. Gridstor develops, owns and operates standalone energy storage assets exclusively.

This story has been updated post-publication with Jason Burwen from Gridstor’s comments and responses.

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