Sonoma Clean Power, MCE seek battery storage options
With their eyes on a 2045 carbon-free state deadline, North Bay clean energy providers are hoping to team up with other sources in seeking ways to store energy.
On Oct. 16, Sonoma Clean Power and MCE, formerly Marin Clean Energy, sought partners to secure to get energy-related technologies that will help them secure 500 megawatts of long-term storage. They seek contracts related to energy storage such as battery backups, which will be accepted at a minimum of 10 years.
Both North Bay power providers are community choice aggregators, which are not-for-profit, public agencies aimed at providing clean energy choices including solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal sources to regions, with the idea of reinvesting revenues into local and statewide projects and programs.
Along with Peninsula Clean Energy, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, San Jose Clean Energy, Clean Power SF, Central Coast Community Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, they are seeking partners to create options allowing for the long duration storage of energy.
By doing so, the providers hope to manage usage during peak- and low-consumption periods, which have changed in the last few years.
Proposals, which are due by Dec. 1, are sought by vendors such as renewable energy developers, battery storage suppliers and industry experts.
“We’re supporting that installation of home energy storage systems to help communities when the power is going off,” said Carolyn Glanton, Sonoma Clean Power’s programs manager responsible for developing, managing and implementing energy storage programs programs. “In addition, long duration energy storage is used to supply renewable energy onto the grid and helps with grid reliability.”
A brownout occurs when the voltage drops way below standards, prompting the possibility of damaging equipment such as compressors. In the case of a brownout, the utility system protection usually will disconnect power to areas where the voltage drops dramatically below standards.
Reliable energy is crucial to the California Independent System Operator (ISO).
“Brown outs are definitely a concern. What we’re seeing with the California ISO is more flex alerts,” Glanton said, warning the situation may worsen with climate change.
Clean energy providers typically tap into utility-scale, lithium-ion batteries backed by solar resources, which can store and emit four hours of energy at a time. The energy may stay on site or get recycled back to the grid, allowing for the users to get credits.
Jeff Mathias, who runs Synergy Solar & Electrical Systems in Sebastopol, pointed out that energy storage is important to timing usage, especially since peak times have changed.
In particular, shelter-in-place orders have prompted residential use to go up and commercial consumption to drop. Electrical usage has gone up 19% since March 8, compared with 2019. The daily shifts in the peak hours have also changed recently.
“They used to be from noon to 6 (p.m.). Now they’re 4 to 9 (p.m.),” said Mathias, California Solar and Storage Association North Bay Chapter president. “(Doling out) too much power can be as much of a problem as too little, so we don’t waste the energy or damage the electrical system.”
In 2019, many structures experienced more than two weeks of power outages, Mathias pointed out, adding 30% more electricity will be drawn from the grid in the next decade. The statistic was unverified by the California ISO and state Public Utilities Commission at press time.
Starting with his morning coffee, Mathias has a home routine switching to his backup solar-battery system that helps him maintain power throughout the day and night, with his company’s solar-battery system. The solar component only works during the day.
That pairing provides an option for a property owner over generators that some view as costly, loud and risky because of the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning if used indoors.
A looming mandate
Facing a state target date of providing carbon-free energy by 2045 and long-term storage solutions by 2026, aggregators, which serve more than 3 million customers in the San Francisco Bay Area, have formed a partnership. Sonoma Clean Power, located in Santa Rosa, services 227,773 customer accounts, while San Rafael-based Marin Clean Energy handles 480,000.
“Storage is a big component to transitioning to a carbon-free future. It was important we participate,” Marin Clean Energy spokeswoman Jenna Famular said.
The same sentiment was shared by Silicon Valley Clean Energy.
“By working together, the eight CCAs are able to procure large-scale projects that would be challenging for one CCA to procure on its own,” its CEO Girish Balachandran said.
The California Community Choice Association argues these providers represent the future of energy procurement and lead the way, having already signed contracts totalling more than 5,000 megawatts with renewable energy and storage facilities throughout the state.
“Now CCAs are acting fast to secure the reliability resources that are needed to support a more resilient power system,” association Executive Director Beth Vaughan said.
They came on the scene in 2002, after the energy crisis of 2000, as an alternative to investor-owned utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric.
As the power company that owns and maintains the infrastructure that delivers the energy, PG&E has also gotten in on the clean-energy and storage act. Last May, the Northern California utility sought approval on five energy storage projects totaling 423 megawatts in a filing with the CPUC. PG&E, which received approval in August, sent out its request for offers in February.
“PG&E is deeply committed to the California vision of a sustainable energy future. We are now taking advantage of advancements in energy storage technology to ensure that customers continue to receive clean and reliable power from a flexible and dependable electric grid,” said Fong Wan, senior vice president of PG&E’s Energy Policy and Procurement division.
Natural gas represents California’s top electricity source over the past few decades, but within the last 10 years, solar power is fast gaining ground as a reliable source of renewable electricity.
Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, energy and agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 25 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times in San Diego County, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. She graduated from Fullerton College. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.