Hecate Grid signs utility contract, gets local approval for 1,200MWh California BESS project

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Hecate Grid has progressed a 300MW/1,200MWh battery storage project in California, US, signing off-take contracts for its stored energy and gaining a key local authority approval.

The independent power producer (IPP) said last week that it has achieved what it described as two key milestones in the development of Humidor Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) Project, in Los Angeles County, California.

That included contracts signed with two California energy suppliers, the major investor-owned utility (IOU) Southern California Edison (SCE) and with MCE, one of the state’s community choice aggregator (CCA) groups.

CCAs are like non-profit utility companies which allow customers to choose where their energy comes from, with many electing to offer renewable energy-rich tariffs.

The contracts are for resource adequacy (RA), the main mechanism through which load-serving entities in California have to ensure they have sufficient energy resources available. RA contracts are typically long-term, typically providing secure revenues to BESS asset owners and investors over terms in excess of 10 years.

RA is particularly important in helping utilities and the main California grid operator CAISO ride out peak demand periods and over four-hour windows throughout the day and night. Contracting for RA has therefore led to a proliferation of four-hour duration battery projects in California.

Hecate Grid’s Humidor project will similarly charge up from the grid during times of surplus renewable energy and at off-peak times when power prices are cheaper and then discharge into the grid when demand peaks.

As widely noted, battery storage is playing an increasingly major role on the CAISO grid in managing the crunches in supply and demand, especially from the 4pm to 9pm daily window when solar PV generation tails off and evening demand for power from consumers kicks off. That role was brought to widespread attention during the August heatwaves, when there was serious risk of CAISO having to enact rolling outages – a risk which was eventually averted. More than 3GW of battery storage was discharging to the grid at certain times during evening peaks in that heatwave.

Hecate Grid said it has also received site plan approval from LA County officials for Humidor. It expects to have the project commissioned and in commercial operation in H1 2024.  

The IPP was started up by US renewable energy developer Hecate Energy as a joint venture (JV) with investor InfraRed Capital Partners and is now a separate entity, having been spun out.

The company brought online Johanna Energy Storage System, a 20MW/80MWh standalone BESS project in Santa Ana, California, in late 2021. Johanna is serving as a pilot project for SCE to assess how battery storage can help the utility match its electricity supply and demand, which are increasingly fluctuating with the addition of variable renewable energy to the CAISO energy mix.

Hecate Grid is also now building a further three California BESS projects totalling 105MW/210MWh in Riverside County and aims to issue Notices to Proceed on a portfolio of 750MW/1,500MWh of battery projects in Texas’ ERCOT market later this year, it claimed.

“Energy storage packs a one-two punch. It supports wide scale deployment of renewable energy while mitigating energy costs for consumers,” Hecate Grid VP of business development Gabe Wapner said.

2.15GWh buildout in SCE territory nears completion

In related news, the construction partner contracted to deliver 2.15GWh of battery storage projects in Southern California Edison (SCE) service territory for developer Ameresco said work is nearing completion.

BEI Construction said the three-site project, on which construction began in April 2022, should be finished by the end of this year.

One of the biggest battery storage buildouts ever contracted, SCE signed up Ameresco for the total 537.5MW/2,150MWh of projects in Southern California to help it manage its peak demand.

The contracts had originally been signed and then announced in 2021 on the basis that they would be delivered before this August, helping to mitigate the fierce California summer peak in demand.

However, in April Ameresco said it was encountering circumstances amounting to force majeure events that would prevent it from meeting the deadline, citing factors including COVID19-impacted shipping and supply chains and new rules in China on the safe import of batteries.

By the beginning of August, when Ameresco announced its most recent financial results, CEO George Sakellaris said project teams were “working around the clock” to get them finished as soon as possible, by the end of the year.

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