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Replacing gas, Strata Solar picks Tesla for Southern California battery peaker


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Replacing gas, Strata Solar picks Tesla for Southern California battery peaker

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NRG Energy sought to replace its gas-fired Mandalay plant in Oxnard, Calif., with another gas plant. Instead, Southern
California Edison is contracting for energy storage, including a big battery array that Stata Solar is building in Oxnard.
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

Strata Solar LLC has selected Tesla Inc. to build a 100-MW energy storage project in Oxnard, Calif., that is on track to break ground this summer after completing local permitting and other preconstruction work, the privately held North Carolina-based developer said May 11.

Supported by a 20-year resource adequacy contract with Southern California Edison Co., the Ventura Energy Storage facility, also known as the Saticoy Battery Storage Project, is a central part of the utility's strategy to bolster grid reliability in its Moorpark subarea, northwest of Los Angeles.

Approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2019, the contract marked a major procurement shift in the area, and the state, away from coastal natural gas-fired generation. Prior to its deal with Strata Solar, Southern California Edison, an Edison International subsidiary, had a power purchase agreement with NRG Energy Inc. for the 262-MW Puente Power Project in Oxnard, a natural gas-fired power plant planned at the site of the Mandalay Generating Station, which retired in 2018. The Puente project was shelved in 2017.

"Ventura Energy Storage is exactly the type of modern and clean energy infrastructure investment our community needs," Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn said in a statement.

Located in an industrial area of Oxnard, the Strata Solar project, with four hours of storage capacity, will help to partially replace "the obsolete technology of once-through-cooling [gas] plants that Oxnard's coast has hosted for decades," added Mayor Pro-Tem Carmen Ramirez.

Hearing strong opposition from the community, Oxnard's city council unanimously rejected the Puente gas project, which NRG officially abandoned in late 2018 after Southern California Edison, or SCE, signaled its intent to instead fill its local capacity needs with a combination of new transmission and energy storage.

California decarbonizes

Oxnard's energy transition, which also includes the upcoming delayed retirement of the nearly 1,500-MW gas-fired Ormond Beach Generating Station, is emblematic of California's broader ambition to decarbonize its power sector by 2045.

The Ventura Energy Storage project is one of numerous California battery storage projects sized 100 MW and larger that are now under construction or in advanced development as the state seeks to balance its growing volume of variable renewable generation with alternatives to gas. SCE added to that pipeline when it recently contracted for another 770 MW of battery storage resources, mostly coupled with solar farms, to replace Ormond and other retiring South Coast gas plants in the coming years.

The Ventura Energy Storage project is scheduled to break ground in July, after an undisclosed equity investment closes, and complete construction in the first quarter of 2021, Josh Rogol, senior vice president of development at Strata Solar, said in an email.

The project includes a new substation and consists of 142 pre-assembled lithium-ion battery "Megapacks" from Tesla, according to a Ventura County planning document.