Powin Stands Up 8 MWh of Energy Storage in Less Than 6 Months

In mid-January, Tualatin, Oregon based Powin Energy brought online a 2MW, 8 MWh battery-powered energy storage system for Southern California Edison (SCE) in Irvine, CA. This happened less than six months after the California Public Utilities Commission requested storage resources to replace the leaking Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

Considering the years it can take to plan, permit and commission a traditional peaker plant, that’s pretty amazing.

Powin Southern California Edison energy storage installation

One view of Powin Energy energy storage system for Southern California Edison. Source: Powin Energy

“With Aliso Canyon, the only way to meet the shortfall was rapid deployment of energy storage,” says Geoffrey Brown, president at Powin. SCE was “shocked at the low prices they were able to get for what was a mandatory short turnaround.” As proof of the economic argument, Brown points out that SCE has another energy storage solicitation in the works for transmission and distribution deferral.

At certain levels, it’s not a question of values or new technologies, just the cheapest and best solution for the need. We won’t see new peaking plants built again.” – Geoffrey Brown, President, Powin Energy

With a background in renewable energy systems, Brown was accustomed to a proceduralized, multi-year interconnection and permitting process for developing a power plant and bringing it into operation. To move from an early August start to an operating project in five months was, in a word, “thrilling.”

Brown credits the dedication of the Powin team who put in long hours, much of them in Irvine. To build a system 10 times larger than anything the company had done before, the manufacturing team ramped up its production facility—from bare floor factory to full assembly line—in just three weeks. Installation on the site took only four more weeks.

The facility consists of 2,400 Li-ion battery packs, each containing 3.7 kWh of lithium iron phosphate prismatic modules. The system is housed in a 35,000 square foot warehouse, and is interconnected on the Virgo 12-kV distribution line out of the Estrella 66/12-kV substation.

Brown points to collaboration with SCE, California ISO and the city of Irvine as additional keys to success. After receiving the interconnection application in the summer, SCE accelerated its contracting process to complete within four months. For CISO, this project represented the first wholesale distribution line to this kind of generator, putting peaking capacity so close to load. “All the teams were fully aligned,” says Brown.

Since coming online in mid-January, the system has met all requirements for full four-hour, 2MW backup. Powin is trying new dispatching modes and flexing its bp-OS software system. The most important job is ensuring system operators are receiving highly reliable data communications all the way down to the cell level. Brown expects that all work will be completed in March, well before the summer’s peak demands.

The Powin project demonstrates the potential of energy storage to ramp up and serve needs much faster than other forms of peak generation capacity. The company has altered its strategy away from “pack on a rack” custom systems to a “drop-in-site” turnkey approach, with systems completely commissioned at the factory and installed by a local electrician. This strategy promises to reduce field work and improve quality control.

Looking ahead, Powin has a number of new deals in process, is talking with Pacific Northwest utilities and tracking storage initiatives. The Aliso Canyon project has clearly demonstrated the ability of storage to meet energy demand quickly and cost effectively. “At certain levels, it’s not a question of values or new technologies, just the cheapest and best solution for the need,” Brown says. “We won’t see new peaking plants built again.”

Read more coverage for the system on Utility Dive.