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AES energizes 100-MW battery peaker in California, considers expansion

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AES energizes 100-MW battery peaker in California, considers expansion

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AES Corp.'s 100-MW/400-MWh Alamitos energy storage project in Long Beach, Calif., started commercial operations Jan. 1, 2021.
Source: AES Corp.

Power generation giant AES Corp. kicked off what many expect to be a record-shattering year for U.S. energy storage deployments in 2021 with the completion a 100-MW/400-MWh battery storage project in Long Beach, Calif., the company announced Jan. 27.

One of the largest operating battery storage projects in the world, the AES Alamitos Energy Battery Storage Array is underpinned by a 20-year contract with Southern California Edison Co. as part of the Edison International utility subsidiary's efforts to bolster grid reliability in the region.

Fluence Energy LLC, an AES joint venture with Siemens AG, supplied the four-hour lithium-ion battery system, which entered commercial service Jan. 1.

"Given the challenges with COVID-related procurement, supply, transport and everything, it's quite a testament to the team to be able to bring that across the line on schedule, and to the benefit of our customer [and] the broader needs of the system," Mark Miller, who leads AES' business in California as general manager of affiliate AES Southland, said in an interview.

When fully charged on grid power, the project can supply electricity to "tens of thousands of homes in milliseconds," according to the companies. The batteries will charge and discharge "depending on the use that Southern California Edison determines," Miller said.

"The capabilities of the battery energy storage system are quite wide-ranging," he said, pointing to frequency regulation, peaking capacity and other grid services.

The project, with an undisclosed price tag, is part of Southern California Edison's growing portfolio of energy storage contracts, many of which are scheduled to enter service by summer 2021 to help avert a repeat of the rolling blackouts that hit California in August 2020.

Possible expansion

While AES has a permit to expand the Alamitos energy storage project to 300 MW, the company has not yet committed to an expansion. AES also has a permit to expand gas-fired generation in Long Beach as well as permits for gas and battery storage additions next to its gas-fired Huntington Beach project.

"We will evaluate the opportunities as we move forward, both market opportunities as well as customer needs," Miller said.

Even though California recently extended the lives of AES' older gas plants in Long Beach and Huntington Beach to ensure the state has sufficient peaking capacity in the near term, AES is positioning itself to meet demand for renewable energy and energy storage as the state decarbonizes in the long run. Through its AES Clean Energy unit, the Arlington, Va.-headquartered company has roughly 2.5 GW of renewable energy projects in operation around the world, about half of which is in California. Nearly 20% of its 2.6-GW contracted pipeline of future renewables projects is also in California, according to the company.

"California represents a unique opportunity for AES and the ... renewable technologies, not only solar and wind, but the battery enabler," Miller said. "All indicators would point to the long-term play as the renewables play."