AES switches on 400MWh California battery project alongside ‘modernised’ natural gas plant

How the project looked as it reached towards its completion. Image: AES.

Update 28 January 2021: An AES Corporation representative told Energy-Storage.news that the new natural gas plant at the Alamitos site went online in early 2020 and offered a bit more clarity on the applications and benefits of the battery project, as well as sharing some photographs of the project, which we've also added: "The BESS is sited at the Alamitos Energy Center in Long Beach which also has the new 650MW CCGT that went commercial in Feb 2020.  Several older gas fired units were retired and replaced by the more efficient and flexible CCGT.  The BESS did not directly replace any gas fired generation, but more so brought new technology that can act as peaking capacity as well as serve ancillary services in the market (e.g. fast response, spinning reserve).

 

Alamitos, a 100MW / 400MWh standalone battery energy storage system (BESS) has begun operations in southern California, where it will help the state overcome electric system reliability issues as it pursues its goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045.

It ranks among the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery projects so far, and has been switched on by electric power generation and distribution company AES Corporation, which developed the project and signed a long-term agreement for the off-take of its stored energy with California investor-owned utility (IOU) Southern California Edison.

“The AES Corporation is proud to announce the commercial operation of the 100MW / 400MWh AES Alamitos Battery Energy Storage System located at the AES Alamitos Energy Center in Long Beach, California,” AES Market Business Leader for California, Mark Miller, told Energy-Storage.news this morning.

The project’s energy storage system was supplied by Fluence, the technology provider and system integrator which AES Corporation owns in a joint venture (JV) with engineering company Siemens. The Qatar Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund recently took a stake of around 12% in Fluence through an investment which valued the BESS solutions provider at over a billion dollars. Alamitos was actually one of the first projects revealed to be in Fluence’s pipeline when the company was officially launched.

AES Corporation’s Mark Miller said that Fluence’s Advancion 5 battery storage equipment has been used and said that the battery system “will play a vital role in supporting the ambitious carbon-free energy targets set out by the State of California.”

“Given the state’s ambitious sustainability targets, AES, through the AES Clean Energy business, will continue to deliver smarter, greener energy solutions to the state,” Miller said.

Artist rendering of the project issued during its development. Image: AES Corporation.

Project among California's wave of four-hour duration battery resources

It is among a number of large-scale battery storage projects with four-hours storage and discharge duration under construction or already built in California to help lower the electricity network’s reliance on natural gas to provide sufficient capacity to the local network, as well as for providing firming of power to integrate renewables.

In a November 2019 ruling, load-serving entities in the state, including Southern California Edison, the two other major IOUs and smaller electricity suppliers were ordered by the regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), to procure a total of 3.3GW of system reliability resources to take over the role of multiple legacy power plants.

In the specific case of Alamitos, AES’ own Alamitos Generating Station, a 1,200MW gas power plant built in the mid-20th Century and acquired by the company in 1998 is being replaced with a “lower profile, more efficient and modernised” combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant of 640MW, together with the 100MW battery facility. AES broke ground on that modernisation project in mid-2017. Unlike its predecessor facility it does not use ocean water for cooling and uses 70% less fresh water.

The battery system meanwhile will help support the grid at times of peak demand and its lithium-ion battery packs are capable of sending power to local homes in fractions of a second when needed, AES said. While it is not directly paired with renewable generation - or with the operation of the natural gas turbines - its role in helping to stabilise the grid and ensure stable electricity supplies should help the local grid integrate more renewable energy alongside reducing the amount of peaker plant natural gas generation relied upon. 

The 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility SCE was signed back in 2015 when AES won out in a competitive bidding process. Back then, an analyst told Energy-Storage.news that the company’s project pipeline for the following two to three years was about 100MWh, considered an industry-leading amount at the time. Both AES and the industry have come a long way since then - on launching a new range of products last year Fluence said it had already pre-booked over 800MW / 2.3GWh of orders while a single project AES Corporation recently began construction on in Chile will have 560MWh of battery storage capacity when finished.

Inside the purpose-built facility sit the 100MW / 400MWh of Fluence Advancion 5 battery energy storage systems. Image: AES Corporation.

A 20-year PPA with California utility SCE has been signed for the project, which is among the world's biggest lithium-ion energy storage facilities so far. Image: AES Corporation.

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