Tribal Focus in Latest $30+M Round of CEC Storage Combination Grants

8 Jul 2020

The California Energy Commission continued to award grants to innovative energy storage projects and microgrids, including two novels ones that will use discarded electric vehicle batteries to store solar power.

Awards unanimously approved this week, totaling more than $31 million, aim to help ensure California slashes carbon emissions and attains carbon neutrality within 15 years.   

Of the grants, $15 million went to native tribal organizations and communities. “This is a perfect intersection of equity and energy,” Commissioner Patty Monahan said.

Almost $5 million was awarded to a couple of projects integrating photovoltaics with vehicle batteries discarded due to loss of discharge capacity–usually around 25%. Some believe California can meet all its storage needs withs 2nd life batteries, Monahan said.

Repurposing spent vehicle batteries is of growing importance because of rising demand for electric vehicles, increasing toxic waste issues from discarded batteries, and growing constraints on imports of minerals used in batteries.

Nearly $3 million went to Rejoule, a battery data company, for a solar plus EV battery system to be deployed in part at a homeless shelter. Another $2.83 million went to the University of California, San Diego, to test another method of connecting old car batteries to PV.

Another approximately $23 million went to other short and long duration storage batteries. That includes more than $17 million for five non lithium ion projects.

A tightening import market for lithium and other minerals is driving pressure at the state and national level to support domestic mining, including the extraction of lithium from concentrated geothermal brine. The CEC has funded extraction research at the Salton Sea, home to a number of geothermal plants.

Th five non-lithium storage grants include $7.28 million to the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians for a vanadium redox flow battery and flywheel storage systems. Each is to provide 400kW for up to 12 hours, including to power a public shelter and wastewater treatment plant.

Another $5 million was awarded to Indian Energy, LLC, for a long duration energy storage project that uses a vanadium redox flow battery, zinc hybrid cathode battery, and mechanical flywheel, at Camp Pendleton.

Grid Alternatives landed a $1.7 million grant to demonstrate connecting solar PV to a vanadium redox flow battery storage system at a Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians’ fire station. This community suffered eight power outages last year, harming “their ability to respond to the community and provide critical resources and potentially life-saving responses to an emergency or disaster,” according to CEC documents.

Other grants approved were:

  • $2 million to Mission Produce to improve existing vanadium redox flow battery technology used at a refrigeration facility in a disadvantaged community.
  • $1.2 million to Indian Energy to demonstrate a flywheel energy storage technology that can discharge 50 kW of power for up to 10 hours in the community of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.
  • $2 million to Antelope Valley Water Storage for a behind-the-meter demonstration of an aquifer pumped-hydro system. The end goal is for use in struggling communities.
  • Three grants, just under $1 million each. Two are for behind-the-meter solar-battery units, and the other for energy storage at single and multi-family dwellings.

The five commissioners also awarded $1.75 million to two long duration modeling projects to evaluate their role in a future green grid. That includes $1.5 million to the organization E2, and $1.25 million to the University of California, Merced.

In addition, the commission okayed a $2.1 million grant for a solar photovoltaic battery project, which is estimated to reduce energy use at Imperial Western Products, Coachella animal food processing plant by 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year, and cut 344 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In related news, the Commissioners on a 5-0 vote approved allowing Terra-Gen to add 80 MW of batteries to its 160 MW parabolic solar project in the Mojave Desert. In the 1990s, NextEra built a massive 354 MW concentrated solar project, the largest in the world at that time. Terra-Gen bought part of the project in 2018.

Elizabeth McCarthy

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