IMPERIAL COUNTY — California needs battery-storage facilities to correct problems caused by too much solar energy on the grid and spacious Imperial County is primed to provide that solution, said a local economic development official.
The state is increasingly
relying on solar-energy generation. The fickly appearance of the sun causes too
much power being produced at times and not enough at others, said Tim Kelley, president
of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp.
The solution to even that out is huge battery-storage facilities, Kelley explained. He has been working with New York’s ConEdison on its proposed facility near El Centro.
The project is now
working its way through the county Planning and Development Services Department
and could see the first phase completed by 2022.
The ConEdison project,
tentatively named the Westside Canal Battery Storage Complex, is slated to be
built in numerous phases, said Michael Abraham, assistant county planning director.
Battery-storage units are
to be developed in 25-megawatt to 350-megawatt parcels over five to 10 years,
he explained. When fully developed the project is planned for a total of 2,025
megawatts of storage capability.
The project will be
located on 148 acres of land owned by ConEdison about eight miles southwest of
El Centro near the Westside Canal at Liebert Road, Abraham added.
“Solar energy kind of
screwed up the grid, and battery storage is a solution for that,” Kelley said,
pointing to the need for “leveling out of the grid.”
That means finding ways
to store and release renewable energy during those hours when power is needed
but renewable resources cannot produce enough, Kelley explained. Also needed
are locations to store the renewable energy produced when they are not needed.
The Imperial Irrigation
District found out just how useful a utility-scale storage facility can be in
dealing with those problems after its 30-megawatt facility came online in late
2016, Kelley said.
“The benefit (IID) didn’t
expect is that others (utilities) needed to get rid of power and they were
paying IID to take it, store it and discharge it (later),” Kelley said.
That allowed the district
to pay back the money it borrowed to build the $25 million facility sooner than
expected, he said.
Job Creation Unclear
However, it’s not
immediately clear what kind of job creator battery storage can be. It’s safe to
take IID’s numbers and multiply them by a factor of 100 to figure out roughly
where the industry stands to go locally, Kelley predicted. If IID’s facility
took $25 million to develop, he said local investment in battery storage could
reach $2.5 billion.
Operating IID’s facility requires
several people and Kelley said if the industry expands hundreds of permanent
jobs could be created beyond the temporary construction employment.
There would also be some
ancillary businesses created, Kelley said, adding battery-storage facilities require cooling, analogous
to how solar fields keep permanent staffers on hand to troubleshoot or clean
It’s also unclear how
many more battery-storage facilities are planned for the county, Kelley. But many
incoming and existing solar developments in the county have space set aside on
their solar operations that is being considered for the development of
battery-storage units, he added.
The need to develop such
facilities is apparent, Kelley said. Something like 35 gigawatts of renewable
power is needed to overcome the shortfall of energy when the sun is not shining
and the wind is not blowing, he explained.
The storage needs will
only increase as California races to meet a mandated target of all utility
companies providing 50 percent of power from renewable sources by 2030 and 100
percent by 2045.