Calif. community power providers aim to add 30 MW of battery storage after blackouts

Energize Weekly, November 13, 2019

Local power providers in the San Francisco Bay area are looking to install 30 megawatts (MW) of residential and commercial battery storage in the wake of the widespread power outages made by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

The three community choice aggregators (CCA), local organizations created to buy cleaner and cheaper wholesale power, and the municipal utility serving Santa Clara issued a joint call for projects to serve about 6,000 homes and hundreds of businesses that have or plan to add solar panels.

In the face of widespread wildfires, PG&E instituted a series of power blackouts to reduce the risk of starting a fire. The blackouts affected more than a million people in the Bay Area.

The four said in a statement they are “joining forces to stabilize California’s grid by providing residents and businesses with economical and emissions-free battery backup systems.”

The “request for proposals” (RFP) calls for projects to install battery storage systems with at least half the capacity going to single-family residences and the remainder going to multifamily dwellings and commercial buildings.

“The systems will lower energy bills, increase reliability, and help stabilize the power supply for the community at large,” the group said.

The program would serve homes, apartment buildings and businesses in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including areas that were hit by the PG&E blackouts.

The winning proposals will be selected in early 2020 with the goal of having the projects in place by the next fire season, the group said in a statement.

While not being “prescriptive,” the RFP lists the goals of supporting low-income residents, customers with life-dependent medical equipment, and residents and businesses located in disadvantaged communities.

This program, the group said, will also enable the use of local resources to fulfill state “Resource Adequacy” requirements, which oblige local agencies and utilities contract for backup capacity to ensure the safe and reliable operation of California’s electrical grid in real time.

The requirement has usually been filled through purchasing additional capacity from distant power plants.

The power providers participating in the call for projects are the three CCAs – East Bay Community Energy, Silicon Valley Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy – and municipal utility Silicon Valley Clean Energy.

There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers, according to the California Community Choice Association.

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