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Battery storage facility expansion continues into East County

EnerSmart Storage, LLC stabilizes power grids with on-demand power supporting continuing expansion of utility scale renewable energy sources by helping grid operators coordinate the balancing act between intermittent supply of energy from renewable sources with the daily energy demands of the local community.

EnerSmart develops, owns and operates utility scale energy storage projects located strategically at points on the electric grid where supply and demand imbalances occur regularly. The EnerSmart renewable energy storage facility primarily provides stabilizing services for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) which oversees the state’s electrical grid. EnerSmart Storage is a San Diego-based battery storage innovator investing in solutions to support California’s clean energy transition.

In August, EnerSmart held its first ribbon cutting for its first project in Chula Vista. Other projects in the works include Alpine, Ramona, El Cajon, La Mesa, Spring Valley, Imperial Beach, Mesa Heights, and Carlsbad.

EnerSmart is run by co-founders and managing partners James Beach and Marc La Magna.

La Magna said EnerSmart was established in late 2019, backed by two experienced private equity firms, Georgetown Partners and Mercuria.

“Currently, all our projects are in San Diego County. We have yet to start developing projects in northern California because our focus right now is that these projects get through this phase of development,” he said. “We have 10 sites spread throughout San Diego County, with one of our first projects about to go operational in Chula Vista in the next few weeks.”

Beach said they have been in the power business most of their careers and began doing battery storage a few years ago because it became economically viable.

“We wanted to create a development company to take advantage of the opportunity and in San Diego, battery storage is needed in this region because of power transmission constraints,” he said.

Battery Energy Storage Systems are containers between 20 and 30 feet long, 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, filled with battery cells, said La Magna.

“You locate these next to electric substations and then they interconnect on the SDG&E circuits and basically used by the CAISO operator 90% of the time for frequency control,” La Magna said. “Batteries are used to essentially take power off the line or put power back in the line as needed depending on changes in supply and demand. With more and more renewable energy in the system, more solar and wind in the state trying to get to 100%, the supply of power is being dictated by weather.”

La Magna said the Alpine project is going to be essentially the same as the Chula Vista project and will be located at 2424 Alpine Blvd.

“It interconnects with the Alpine substation, so it generates local support on the circuit there,” he said.

EnerSmart Vice President of Operations Skyler Tennis said from the feedback that it has already received from the Alpine community, that they are coordinating closely with local fire departments.

“They will have an emergency plan. Know exactly what to do in case of a runaway and specific regulations and guidelines as it relates to fire,” he said. “They also brought up concerns about electromagnetic pulses. I want to get it on the table that there will not be any EMPs generated by our systems.”

Tennis said EnerSmart is planning to review the project with the Alpine Community Planning Group tentatively set for December, if representatives from the County can be in attendance and it has its comments on the project ready to provide to the public.

The Murray Project La Mesa is three times larger than the Chula Vista system and located at 8135 El Paso St. immediately adjacent to both residential and commercial uses.
EnerSmart hopes to start construction in El Cajon in Q1 2024, in La Mesa, Q1 or early Q2 2024, Spring Valley towards the end of 2024, and the Imperial Beach station Q1, early Q2 2024.

La Magna said with older baseload generation and fossil fuels, it was not easy to change supply and demand, and with weather dictating wind and solar energy supplies, something is needed to place power in the system immediately so they system does not trip. He said it works the other way when there is too much power in the system.

“It is use it or lose it in the power system,” he said. “If you do not use power coming from renewables right away, it is wasted. The batteries are there to take advantage of that. They charge during those periods so they can release during periods of higher demand. This does what is called load shifting, so you take all that power that you have lost, take it, recharge it, and release it. Over time, the batteries, the prices are going to start going down even as there are more renewables in the system. That is why it is so important.”

The Chula Vista project cost approximately $7 million to build. Beach said projects vary in size and cost about $1 million per megawatt for projects, and length of duration is also a cost factor with larger projects costing more.

The Chula Vista project is a six-megawatt system that can power 3,000 homes each hour and it provides energy back into the grid.

“Physically, we can not do that, but that is what could be feasible if SDG&E had a connection that worked that way,” La Magna said. “We are showing that we have the power here to stabilize the local grid.”

La Magna said that these systems support renewable energy 100%.

“It eliminates the need for more transmission,” he said. “Nobody wants more wires hanging around, so by putting these systems in place, it reduces the requirements for having to build new transmission lines.”

Beach said this reduces the need for peaker power plants.

“We do not even need gas powered peaker plants right now,” he said. “Battery has 100% displaced them. They are more efficient, cleaner and cheaper.”

La Magna said gas powered peaker plants starting from a cold start take 15 minutes to generate, whereas batteries are immediate, which makes them a huge advantage.

Tennis said another advantage of battery storage is that they can be strategically place where needed in the power grid, whereas gas powered peaker plants take up much space.

“With batteries, you can put three megawatts here, 10 megawatts there, 40 megawatts there, to alleviate supply and demand balances caused by renewables, or to relieve congestion on the grid,” he said. “It is a great way to retrofit on the grid to make the grid more resilient and to more efficiently get power to where it needs to be. Having these batteries throughout the grid you make the grid more reliable and less congested in those areas. You will see battery projects a few years from now sprinkled all over the grid in California. It will make the grid a little more intelligent and more responsive to these new sources of power, wind and solar.”

La Magna said that these systems have an economic impact in local communities.

“These projects take about a year,” he said. “With our projects, we hire local construction companies, engineers,” he said. “Our company is growing. We hire locally.”

Beach said many times, it is vacant land, or a junkyard station that it is retrofitting these projects.

“Which is adding a ton of value and adding a ton of property base in the jurisdiction. We pay local property taxes which are not insignificant. That is revenue generation,” he said.

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