Tesla Steps In, Helps Southern California Power Grid Following Aliso Canyon Leak

A field of Tesla's lithium ion battery systems is can power 15,000 homes for 4 hours.

by Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Ontario, Calif. / February 1, 2017

(TNS) -- ONTARIO, Calif. -- They charge six-figure cars, and now — in response to natural gas shortages following a catastrophic gas leak in the San Fernando Valley in 2015-16 — an Ontario field of super-sized Tesla lithium batteries powers homes.

On Monday, the public got its first peek at the new installation at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma Substation in Ontario, which has been operational since the end of the 2016 and was built in 88 days.

The 20 megawatt lithium ion battery system — a combination of two identical systems sitting side by side comprised of 400 modular “power pack” battery units neatly lined in rows along 1.5 acres — can store up to 80 megawatt-hours and power 15,000 homes for 4 hours, Paul Griffo, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, said.

Tesla Motors Chief Technical Officer J.B. Straubel, who was on hand to speak at the grand opening, told reporters each of the energy storage system’s white, rectangular power pack units carries about 16 lithium ion pods, and the batteries can be charged on a daily basis and last for 10 years, he said.

“This battery is actually more rugged and robust and designed for that kind of industrial usage, whereas the vehicle batteries are designed to last the life of the vehicle, but you don’t need to take your vehicle at a full cycle every single day,” Straubel said.

Redundancy is built in, so there’s always a backup supply for the grid, he added.

Another, albeit smaller, field of Tesla batteries is being built on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

The speed at which the project came about was prompted by the closure of the Aliso Canyon natural gas reservoir in late 2015, after a major leak released more than 1.6 million pounds of methane and displaced more than 8,000 residents in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley.

Because natural gas powers electricity generating stations, the Aliso Canyon facility had been a major source of energy for the region, particularly during the winter months for the region’s heating needs. But without a key source of energy, Southern California was at greater risk of rolling blackouts.

Because of the loss, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered energy providers last May to begin building and utilizing more energy storage systems for use during peak times.

Enter Tesla Motors, which won the bid to provide an energy storage system to Southern California Edison. Unlike traditional electric generators, the batteries can be deployed quickly at scale and do not require any water or gas pipelines, according to Tesla.

Under normal circumstances, a project like the one at Mira Loma, could have taken two years to procure, officials said.

“SCE and Tesla just signed the contract for this project in mid-September of last year, and it was operational by the end of the year,” SCE CEO Kevin Payne said. “It represents a big step forward in deploying battery technology and an incredible achievement for the SCE and Tesla team.”

The Ontario project could not have also come without the arrival in early 2016 of Tesla’s Gigafactory in Nevada, Grant Davis, an SCE engineer, said. The factory, which produces the heavy-duty lithium ion batteries used for their cars and for industrial energy storage “power pack” systems, finally became operational a year ago.

©2017 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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