California muni IID completes first US demonstration of black start battery capability

Dive Brief:

  • Imperial Irrigation District has successfully demonstrated the ability of its battery energy storage system to provide black start capability.

  • The storage 33 MW / 20 MWh system, which entered service in October 2016, was able to start IID’s 44 MW combined-cycle natural gas turbine at the El Centro Generating Station. It is the first demonstration of such battery capability in the U.S., according to the utility. 

  • The battery system was then able to convert immediately to load to absorb the generator’s output until the plant could be stabilized and integrated with the grid.

Dive Insight:

Black start capability — the restarting of a conventional generating plant without use of external transmission — has long been listed as a theoretical benefit of battery storage, but demonstrations have been slow to come. 

This functionality “hasn’t been deployed before,” said Mir Ziyad Ali, senior systems engineer at ZGlobal, one of IID's partners on the project.

That point, Energy Storage News notes, is debatable. In January, the outlet reported a 5 MW battery storage facility in Germany would be the first to utilize the capability.

Either way, the IID's partners on the project hailed the demonstration as a major achievement in enhancing grid resiliency. 

“This success is an essential next step in increasing the resiliency of IID’s grid to recover from power outages to ensure district customers have the electricity they require every day,” Mirko Molinari, general manager of digital grid, at GE Energy Connections, said in a statement. 

California has been in the forefront of states that have embraced energy storage and within California, IID has been one of the most enthusiastic adopters.

Earlier this month, the Smart Electric Power Alliance cited IID for installing 30 MW of energy storage in 2016, the most of any utility that year. 


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