Teamwork Key to SDG&E’s Leadership in Battery Energy Storage

Imagine being tasked with the job of managing the development of the worlds’ largest lithium ion battery energy storage facility—and being required to complete it in eight months because the project is critical to ensuring the reliability of the power grid. This is exactly what Josh Gerber, SDG&E manager for advanced technology integration, and his team was asked to do less than a year ago.

Well, in just days SDG&E will “flip the switch” on this brand new facility located in Escondido and eyes around the globe are watching. The focus is on battery storage as an innovative technology that has the potential to enhance grid reliability with increasing renewable energy in a cost effective manner.

The 400,000 batteries, similar to those in electric vehicles, were installed in 20,000 modules and placed in 24 massive containers. The batteries act like a sponge, soaking up and storing energy when it is abundant—when the sun is shining, wind is blowing and energy use is low—and releasing it when energy resources are in high demand. This provides reliable energy when customers need it most, and maximizes renewable resources such as solar and wind use in the community.

Driving this innovative project for SDG&E is Gerber and his team of four. They are helping customers realize the many benefits of this unique project that they may never see, including grid reliability, power quality and increasing renewable energy use.

Gerber credits exceptional teamwork for making this project a success. “It’s great to work with a team of talented people, who have come together on a challenging project and get it done safely for the benefit of our customers.”

The team partnered with AES Energy Storage, one of the leaders in battery storage facility construction. Through the accelerated six-month construction period, he became the liaison for the regulator, management team, staff and customers to ensure the project met their varied needs and was delivered on time.

The project was not without its hiccups. Gerber had the technology and the company to build it but no place to put it. Working closely with Electric Regional Operations, the one-acre site was identified, as well as a site for a smaller energy storage facility in El Cajon. Then the Escondido project design had to be altered putting the containers on pedestals in order to comply with environmental regulations.

Gerber’s desire to make a positive impact on the community—and the world—helped him overcome the obstacles and pushed him towards completion. Now, SDG&E’s 30-megawatt (MW) energy storage project, which can supply approximately 20,000 homes with energy for up to four hours, is about to become a reality. The project is in the final stages of testing and will soon be providing energy to the power grid.

“We are at the tip of the spear proving to the state and the nation that energy storage can be done in a cost-effective and reliable manner,” said Gerber. “This makes economic sense and is also great for the environment.”

SDG&E currently has approximately 100 megawatts (MW) of energy storage projects completed or contracted and is gearing to add much more in the near future. Gerber is proud to help move these projects forward and forge a path to a better energy future, both for San Diego and the nation overall.