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From the road, the close to 400 white industrial boxes packed into 1.5 acres of barren land in Ontario, California, a little more than 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, look like standard electrical equipment. They’re surrounded by a metal fence, stand on concrete pads and sit under long electrical lines.

But take a closer look and you’ll notice the bright red coloring and gray logo of electric car company Tesla on the sides. And inside the boxes are thousands of battery cells – the same ones that are used in Tesla’s electric cars – made by the company in its massive $5bn Tesla Gigafactory outside of Reno, Nevada.

This spot, located at the Mira Loma substation of Southern California Edison, hosts the biggest battery farm Tesla has built for a power company. Southern California Edison will use the battery farm, which has been operating since December and is one of the biggest in the world, to store energy and meet spikes in demand – like on hot summer afternoons when buildings start to crank up the air conditioning.

Tesla’s project has a capacity of 20 megawatts and is designed to discharge 80-megawatt hours of electricity in four-hour periods. It contains enough batteries to run about 1,000 Tesla cars, and the equivalent energy to supply power to 15,000 homes for four hours. The company declined to disclose the project’s cost.

The project marks an important point in Tesla’s strategy to expand beyond the electric car business. Developing battery packs is a core expertise for the company, which is designing packs for homes, businesses and utilities. It markets them partly as a way to store solar electricity for use after sundown, a pitch that works well for states with a booming solar energy market such as California.

Battery systems built for power companies can serve more than one purpose. A utility can avoid blackouts by charging them up when its natural gas power plants, or solar and wind farms, produce more electricity than needed, and draw from them when the power plants aren’t able to keep up with demand.

Edison and other California utilities hired Tesla and a few other battery farm builders after an important natural gas reservoir near Los Angeles, called Aliso Canyon, closed following a huge leak and massive environmental disaster in late 2015. The leak forced thousands of people in nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. It also left utilities worried about how they’d meet the peak electricity demands of coming summers if they weren’t able to dip into the natural gas storage whenever they need fuel to produce power. They couldn’t always get natural gas shipment from other suppliers quick enough to meet a sharp rise in electricity consumption.

Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel unveils the batteries.
Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel unveils the batteries. Photograph: Katie Fehrenbacher

As a result, the California Public Utilities Commission approved 100 megawatts of energy storage projects for both Southern California Edison and also San Diego Gas & Electric. The commission also asked for the projects to be built quickly, before the end of 2016.

Other energy storage projects that have been built since include a 37.5-megawatt project in San Diego County by AES Energy Storage, which used lithium-ion batteries from Samsung. AES has completed the project, which is going through the commissioning phase. AES also plans to build a 100-megawatt project for Southern California Edison in Long Beach in 2020.

 

read more original article The Guardian


Date: 2017-01-31


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