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Long Beach permits 'largest battery storage facility in the world'

Planning commissioners in Long Beach, Calif., have unanimously approved permits sought by an AES Corp. subsidiary to build the 300MW/1,200MWh AES Alamitos Energy Battery Storage Array. The project, part of its Alamitos Energy Center, which also includes two recently approved natural gas-fired power plants, "would become the largest battery energy storage facility in the world and will allow us to really transform our grid," Stephen O'Kane, AES' sustainability director, told the planning commission during an Aug. 3 hearing.

"Tesla was talking about the newest, biggest they are going to do in Australia, and that's only 129 MWh. This will be 1,200 MWh, so significantly larger," he said. "This is really [an] industry- and world-leading sustainability project," O'Kane added, citing the need to store surplus intermittent renewable energy for later use.

Scheduled to start construction in mid-2019 and come online in early 2021, the four-hour duration AES battery storage system would be housed in three separate buildings with roofs "designed to accommodate solar panels in the future," and would store off-peak power for use during peak demand periods, according to a city planning document. "The battery storage facility does not connect to the power generation units; rather it connects to the regional power grid via a Southern California Edison Co. switchyard," it clarified.

AES has a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Edison International subsidiary for the output from AES's gas-fired Alamitos Repowering facility and also a 20-year contract for 100 MW of battery storage. An AES spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment on its plans for the remaining uncommitted storage capacity.

Unless a party in the Long Beach proceeding appeals to the city council within 10 days of the decision, the project will move forward. If anyone appeals the action, it would force a public hearing and vote by city council on whether to sustain or overturn the planning commission decision.