Westside Canal project
An aerial view of the Westside Canal energy storage project in Imperial Valley. Photo courtesy of SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric has finished two energy storage facilities totaling 171 megawatts in Fallbrook and Imperial Valley, it was announced Thursday.

The facilities have the capability to power nearly 130,000 homes for four hours, the utility company said in a statement.

“The beauty of energy storage is it can help California solve two problems simultaneously,” said Miguel Romero, SDG&E’s vice president of energy innovation. “It can soak up surplus renewable energy during the day, so solar and wind farms don’t have to cut off production when demand on the grid is low.

“By extending the availability of clean energy to peak evening hours, energy storage can also help California achieve its clean energy goals by reducing reliance on conventional power plants to meet peak electricity demand.”

The 131MW Westside Canal project in Imperial Valley is the largest storage asset in SDG&E’s energy storage portfolio, while the 40MW Fallbrook project is the second largest in its portfolio.

Utility leaders said SDG&E’s energy storage portfolio is expected to reach 345 MW of power capacity by the end of the year — equivalent to 15% of its customers’ load on a typical day and 7% on a system peak day.

These facilities and others like them participate in the energy markets managed by the California Independent System Operator, allowing CAISO to store and dispatch clean energy from the facilities to meet electricity demand as needed. According to SDG&E, in recent years, as wind and solar generation capacity has grown in California, renewable generation facilities have had to increasingly curtail, or scale back, energy production to keep the grid balanced.

“With our state experiencing more frequent climate extremes such as record heat waves and droughts, it is essential to invest in innovations like energy storage to make sure we can continue to power the world’s fourth largest economy reliably,” said CAISO President and CEO Elliot Mainzer. “The rapid growth of energy storage in California in recent years gives me optimism about our state’s future and its capacity to respond to climate change.”

The Westside Canal project is made up of more than 800 cubes of stacked lithium-ion batteries across roughly 16 acres. It began commercial operation in June. The Fallbrook energy storage project is also made up of stacks of lithium-ion batteries and began commercial operation in May.

“Both facilities are equipped with safety features, remote monitoring, and automation technologies,” reads a statement from SDG&E. “When smoke or other anomalies are detected, the units will automatically shut down.”

The company finished the Top Gun Energy Storage Facility (30MW) in the Miramar area of San Diego in 2021 and the Kearny Energy Storage Facility (20MW) in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego in 2022.

— City News Service