Utility-Scale Storage Across the Grid

As followers of the energy industry know, energy storage is growing at a phenomenal rate. Install size predictions that seemed aggressive only a few years ago, now look to have been far too conservative. The pace of projects is not only picking up in places industry insiders would expect, like California, but also gaining traction in newer markets such as Canada, Arizona, and Indiana. 

Developers and owners of utility-scale energy storage projects across North America are witnessing the expansion of the energy storage market firsthand. Leading U.S. utilities are actively implementing storage systems that will provide incremental capacity to the grid. Each system is designed to deliver slightly different services. Here is a brief list of projects that demonstrate the broad set of capabilities which today's advanced storage systems can provide.

  • Providing critical peaking capacity and grid support services:

The Grand Johanna system in Irvine (2 MW/9 MWh)Developed in response to the Aliso Canyon gas leak in 2015; it has been operational since the beginning of 2017.

  • Primarily intended to relieve local capacity constraints caused by retiring fossil fuel units:

The Hummingbird Energy Storage project in Santa Clara County in Northern California (75 MW/300 MWh)Pending CPUC approval, it's slated to be in service by December 2020.

  • Intended to bolster local distribution networks enabling wires upgrades to be deferred:

The Wildcat Energy Storage project near Palm Springs (3 MW/12 MWh).

Three separate Acorn Energy Storage projects under development in Thousand Oaks, California (with a total combined storage capacity of 6.5 MW/26.5 MWh).

  • Providing critical local capacity to a transmission constrained area of the grid:

 The Quarantina project in Santa Barbara (10 MW/40 MWh)This energy storage facility will be operational by 2021.

In many of these cases, the utility customer purchases capacity, while the developer retains the ability to provide additional value-added energy and ancillary services into the local market. Sometimes, however, a utility customer will purchase a bundled product including capacity, energy, and other ancillary services. This is the case with the 6.5 MW/26 MWh Don Lee system in Escondido, due to go online by 2021. Currently, several large utilities and Community Choice Aggregators have RFPs planned or ongoing in California, highlighting the success of the state's energy storage goals. In fact, those targets are already being surpassed due to the ability of energy storage to provide capacity at rates competitive with natural gas generation. 

California isn't the only place in North America where energy storage is booming, though. Ontario, Canada, has been a hotbed of energy storage activity: The Stratford Energy Storage project is an 8.8 MW/40.8 MWh system located in the city of Stratford, and is the largest battery storage facility in Canada. It provides voltage control, frequency regulation, and system peak reduction operations. Thousands of megawatt-hours of energy storage projects are being developed for utility RFP procurements planned or underway across the United States, including New York, Washington, Alabama, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. 

It is clear that grid operators across North America are embracing battery energy storage, and the numerous services it can provide at an attractive price. Whether as a capacity resource, transmission and distribution deferral, renewable energy integration, ancillary services, or other functions, energy storage is proving to be a valuable asset that is a key component of the grid's future.


Randolph is President of esVolta. He has over twenty years' experience identifying, creating, and scaling strategic growth initiatives in the energy business. Prior to founding esVolta, Randolph served as President of Salt Creek Energy Advisors which provided energy clients with services including strategy consulting, transaction diligence and execution, project development, and economic analysis. He was previously VP of Development for NRG Energy, where he led utility-scale wind and solar development and directed a new platform to develop renewable energy-led microgrids. He also served as VP Development for Edison Mission Energy, where he positioned that company among the largest wind owner/operators in the United States. Randolph has a Master's of Science in Management from the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Virginia.

esVolta | www.esvolta.com

Author: Randolph Mann
Volume: 2019 January/February