California approves energy storage systems to bolster grid

(Bloomberg) – California approved one of the the biggest installations of battery-based energy-storage systems in the U.S. as the state moves to add power resources to its grid after suffering from rolling blackouts.

The California Public Utilities Commission signed off on previously announced utility contracts for nearly 1.2 gigawatts of battery storage capacity that is expected to be in service by August of next year. The commission’s vote comes less than two weeks after California’s grid operator imposed power shutoffs that left millions in the dark during a record heat wave.

Last year, state regulators ordered utilities to secure an additional 3.3 gigawatts of reserve supplies as it anticipated electricity shortfalls with the retirement of aging natural gas plants. The batteries will be able to soak up excess energy produced by California’s solar farms during the day and discharge that electricity when the sun goes down and solar production falls.

In May, Edison International’s Southern California Edison said it had inked deals for 770 megawatts of battery projects and PG&E Corp. said it had agreements for 423 megawatts to help close the gap. Those contracts were approved Thursday.

Separately, the commission allowed Southern California Edison to sign short-term contracts to buy power from several natural gas units.

“California recently experienced reliability challenges not seen in decades and we are working to identify the root causes,” CPUC Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said in a statement. “Our decisions today continue to build the foundation of our resource adequacy program by securing additional contingency resources for use when needed.”

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