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Saft batteries to mitigate impact from rooftop solar for California utility

French battery manufacturer and designer Saft has been contracted to supply a 1MW/3MWh lithium-ion storage system at an educational facility in California, aimed at mitigating the impact of variable solar generation.

Installed at the unnamed educational facility in four containers, the energy storage system will “moderate the effects of shade” on the rooftop PV system by “shifting energy and buffering during intermittent sunlight”, according to Saft.

The contract was awarded to Saft by a California utility company, which has not been named. Along with two previous, similar storage contracts that Saft has been awarded, the project will make a small contribution to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandate AB2514, which calls for investor-owned utilities to install 1.3GW of storage by 2020. In total, Saft has supplied 7.5MWh of battery capability to the utility since its first 1,500kWh project went in online in 2012.

That first project was funded in part by the US Department of Energy and was installed at a micro-grid serving a remote desert community. According to Saft, the system helped engineers restore power to over a thousand homes while using power stored in the batteries and was used to test the capabilities of such systems. Following that installation, another Saft system was fitted at the same substation, this time with 1MW/3MWh rated output and capacity respectively, across four containers, the same basic battery set-up as the newest project.   

Chris Edgette, senior director of the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) and a consultant on strategy, recently told PV Tech Storage that forward-thinking legislature and industry activity in the state could yield lessons that could be learned by other regions.

“If we can get these issues through in California it makes it much easier in other markets,” Edgette said.

“…In California [for example], we saw that the California Energy Commission put out, with the California Solar Initiative, a list of approved panels and inverters and they spent a lot of time saying ‘this inverter is rated in this way’ and so on. And we [then] saw other states using that same system because it was easy and somebody had already done the brain damage! We expect to see the same thing on storage that other utilities will say ‘oh ok, this is now how it’s settled out, here’s the model that makes sense to us and it’s sorted’ and that’s really what we hope will happen.”

According to Edgette, working hand-in-hand with utilities and regulators is vital for companies to be successful in the California storage market, whether they be dedicated battery and storage companies, or solar companies diversifying their offerings into storage.

"I think what I’m seeing is that companies that are likely to be most successful are ones that are involved in the regulations and design systems that meet the regulation and policy now and what we expect to see going forward and some of those companies are solar companies and some of those companies are storage companies. I would say it’s just the progressiveness and forethought that’s defining who will be a market leader."

The four-container system will mitigate shading and intermittent sunlight. Images: Saft.

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