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California Utility to Replace Three Natural Gas Peaker Plants with Battery Storage

Pacific Gas & Electric is moving ahead with a proposal to replace three Northern California natural gas peaker plants with battery storage, after the California Public Utilities Commission voted 4-1 last week to accept the plan.

CPUC Commissioner Liane Randolph called the vote “only one step in the broader challenge we face in managing the state’s fossil fuel fleet.”

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In January, the commission “ordered the state’s biggest utility to find a way to replace the power it gets from three Calpine Corporation gas plants that are at risk of retirement, and to consider battery systems,” Bloomberg News reports. “California has mandated that utilities add about 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage to the grid by 2020 to help integrate the increasing amount of intermittent wind and solar power,” after Governor Jerry Brown pledged a 100% carbon-free grid by 2045.

California currently relies on natural gas for 34% of its electricity. It draws another 13% from coal and other fuels, and 9% from nuclear generation.

“The four battery projects include a 183-megawatt facility south of San José, California, that will be designed and built by Tesla and owned by PG&E,” Bloomberg states. “Vistra Energy Corporation is planning a 300-megawatt installation; Hummingbird Energy Storage LLC is developing a 75-megawatt project; and Micronoc Inc. plans to install 10 megawatts of capacity at customer locations.”

Vistra President and CEO Curt Morgan said his company’s 300-MW/1,200 megawatt-hour Moss Landing installation will be the largest of its kind in the world. “Vistra is excited for this opportunity to work with PG&E, and the State of California, to develop a world-class battery project on our Moss Landing site, while building industry-leading expertise in the development and commercialization of battery storage assets,” he said.

“After the installation by Tesla, PG&E will own the facility in what could be a transition of the operation and maintenance of what are effectively peaker plants from external operators to the utility itself,” CleanTechnica notes. “This highlights yet another advantage of grid-scale stationary energy storage facilities which require far less maintenance and ongoing care than natural gas peaker plants.”