An SDG&E employee walks in front of four of the battery units. Photo by Chris Jennewein
An SDG&E employee walks in front of four of the battery units. Photo by Chris Jennewein

San Diego Gas & Electric unveiled Friday the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage facility — a one-acre installation in Escondido that stores enough electricity to power 20,000 homes for four hours.

“Behind me are 400,000 cells that act like a giant sponge — soaking up that renewable energy,” said Scott Drury, president of the utility, at a dedication ceremony.

SDG&E currently receives 43 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind. The batteries store power overnight that is ready for use whenever demand requires.

SDG&E’s Josh Gerber with one of the battery cells.

The facility takes the place of polluting natural gas-powered peak generators and was able to be set up in only six months.

“San Diego Gas & Electric continues to demonstrate leadership in using the most advanced technology,” said John Zahurancik, president of AES Energy Storage, which built the battery units.

The facility consists of 24 shipping-container sized units, each with over 16,000 batteries and circuitry to convert direct current to alternating current for the electric grid. The utility has already opened similar, but smaller battery storage facilities in Borrego Springs and Chula Vista.

Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, praised SDG&E for its innovation and said the facility represents the future for electric power in the state.

“This is evidence that California is moving into a post-renewable era,” Picker said.

By 2030 the San Diego utility expects to have 330 megawatts of battery storage — as much as a modern natural gas-fired generating plant.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed (left) listens as an SDG&E employee explains the battery system.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.