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Large Scale Energy Storage no Pie in the Sky for UC San Diego

Considered one of the most advanced microgrids in the world, the UC San Diego microgrid generates 92 percent of the electricity used on campus annually.
Considered one of the most advanced microgrids in the world, the UC San Diego microgrid generates 92 percent of the electricity used on campus annually.

To prove that extensive renewable energy adoption is no pie in the sky, the University of California in San Diego recently announced that it will integrate a 5MWhr battery system into the university’s electrical system. The campus generates 92% of the power it uses on campus and is already one of the world’s most advanced microgrids. The microgrid controls onsite power generation from wind, solar and conventional sources and can operate standalone, or in connection with the grid.

Vice Chancellor for Resource Management and Planning, Gary C. Matthews says of the technology, “Energy storage has the potential to transform the global energy landscape. It can help make renewable energy sources more reliable and is critical to a resilient, efficient, clean and cost-effective grid. We are proud to help advance this technology.”

Energy storage, such as the use of advanced batteries, helps intermittent renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power, to be reserved during its peak production, for use at another time. The technology is key to improving grid reliability and resiliency .

The 2.5MW, 5MWh energy storage system will be procured from BYD, the world’s biggest supplier of rechargeable batteries. The system will use high performance lithium-ion iron-phosphate batteries known for their reliability and ecological friendliness. The batteries do not contain heavy metals, nor do they have toxic electrolytes. Care is taken during manufacturing so as to avoid the use of caustic and harmful materials. They are non-explosive and are fire proof and won’t leak even if subjected to direct flame. The company, partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, has installed 100 MWh of fixed energy storage solutions worldwide.

The initiative is in line with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ambitious energy storage target of installing 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of energy storage by 2024 by the state’s investor-owned utilities. The new regulation allows third-party electricity storage providers and even customers to participate in the build up of energy storage. Advanced battery systems such as that to be installed by UC San Diego are going to play a prominent role in meeting the target.

The system is expected to be installed by spring 2015 and will enable the campus to avail of US$3.25M in financial incentives through the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). The SGIP is a rebate program to incentivize the installation of clean and efficient distributed generation technologies and is funded by electric power users.

The reality of climate change and the contribution of conventional energy to aberrant weather is already moot and academic.  It’s time that we adopt new ways and technologies, like what this institution of higher learning is doing, to enable extensive use of sustainable and renewable energy sources, such as the use of energy storage.

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