AES Builds A World Record Energy Storage System Thats Bigger Than Tesla’s

1 week ago by Mark Kane 52

Not happy to be in anyone’s shadow, and just few weeks after Tesla’s 80-MWh/20-MW energy storage project for  Southern California Edison debuted, there’s yet another world record energy storage system (ESS).

AES Energy Storage has just launched a system that’s 50 percent larger – 120 MWh/30 MW –  for San Diego Gas & Electric in Escondido, California.  How long will it be before Tesla retorts?

The AES Energy Storage systems utilizes 400,000 lithium-ion cells supplied by Samsung SDI in 20,000 modules and 24 containers.

SDG&E Unveils World’s Largest Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage Facility

SeparatelyAES Energy Storage recently installed a smaller, 7.5-MW ESS for SDG&E.

“Today, SDG&E is showcasing the world’s largest lithium-ion battery energy storage facility in partnership with AES Energy Storage, which will enhance regional energy reliability while maximizing renewable energy use.  The 30 megawatt (MW) energy storage facility is capable of storing up to 120 megawatt hours of energy, the energy equivalent of serving 20,000 customers for four hours.

AES Energy Storage – 120 MWh/30 MW with Samsung SDI lithium-ion cells

Last year, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) directed Southern California investor-owned electric utilities to fast-track additional energy storage options to enhance regional energy reliability.  In response, SDG&E expedited ongoing negotiations and contracted with AES Energy Storage to build two projects for a total of 37.5 MW of lithium ion battery energy storage. In addition to the 30 MW facility built in Escondido, Calif., a smaller 7.5 MW installation was built in El Cajon.”

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

According to the press release, SDG&E expects to develop or interconnect more than 330 MWs of energy storage on the system by 2030.

For Samsung SDI, 120 of MWh battery is equivalent to the installed capacity in more than 3,600 BMW i3s with 33.2 kWh packs (or about equivalent to six months of i3 sales in the U.S.).

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53 responses to "AES Builds A World Record Energy Storage System Thats Bigger Than Tesla’s"

  1. Four Electrics says:

    I think you mean “world record li-ion energy storage system.” There are far larger energy storage systems based on pumped hydro, for example.

    1. Bonaire says:

      To the battery folks, pumped hydro doesn’t exist. 🙂

      Bath County is big.

      And there are many others.

      1. unlucky says:

        For storage that one isn’t that big. It’s its peak output that is high.

        San Luis is about 1,000 times the storage of this installation, Bath is about 250.

      2. protomech says:

        Pumped hydro is great!

        It has two problems:

        1. Round-trip efficiency isn’t great (similarly with compressed hydrogen)
        2. Building more is hard.

        Bath was built 40 years ago, per wikipedia the largest pumped storage facility in the world.

        Construction cost 1.6 billion, or about $6B in today’s money.

        It has a nameplate capacity of 3 GW and can supply that load for around 4 hours, based upon the upper reservoir capacity .. so cost around $500 per kWh.

        Both Tesla’s 20 MW/80 MWh and AES 30 MW/120 MWh projects have the same 4 hour runtime rating. I can’t find information on the actual cost; Tesla quotes a cost in this ballpark of the Bath project in current pricing. Presumably this will continue to fall in time.

        1. speculawyer says:

          Yep, both batteries and pumped-hydro have advantages and disadvantages. Pumped-hydro may be a little cheaper but have certain geography requirements, are harder to permit, and take much longer to build.

          Batteries can be deployed really quickly and just about anywhere.

        2. unlucky says:

          Maybe the largest daily cycling pumped storage project in the world? The most energy round-tripped in a day? A year?

          San Luis is far, far larger (120GWh versus 30GWh) but apparently only cycles through once a year.

          $500 per MWh is either a lot or a little depending on how rapidly it cycles. We need a better way to measure these things other than peak energy capacity.

        3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          protomech said:

          “[pumped hydro] Round-trip efficiency isn’t great (similarly with compressed hydrogen)”

          Hmmm, that’s at least arguable if not downright incorrect. Pumped hydro is the most efficient energy storage system in widespread use. According to what I’ve read, it has up to 79% round-trip efficiency. That makes it far better than stationary compressed hydrogen’s round-trip efficiency of around 50%. I’ve seen claims for 60%, but I don’t know if any commercial installation has ever achieved the latter in real-world, everyday use.

          The only real problem with pumped hydro storage is that it can only be used where there are two water reservoirs at different elevations in close proximity, so most places where it can practically and affordably be installed it already has been. It would be far too expensive to build large water reservoirs “in the middle of nowhere”; it only pays to install pumped hydro where such reservoirs already exist, mostly where dams have been built for purposes of drinking water and/or flood control.

          Also, small-scale pumped hydro isn’t practical. I once did “napkin math” to figure out how much water you’d need for a single family dwelling, to use pumped hydro for overnight storage of electricity from solar power. Assuming a 30′ drop between upper and lower reservoirs, I came up with a figure about 10x as big as a typical backyard swimming pool… and you’d need two reservoirs of that size, one 30′ underground.

          As I said: Not practical. And scaling that up would only make it even more expensive.

          1. MM says:

            Can someone point out to me why an inclined electric rail weight system is not practical? It seems like it would work like pumped water, but without the reservoirs. Just a track, and electric motor/generator and a lot of weight.Uphill in the sunshine and downhill at night. I must be missing something.

            1. mustang_sallad says:

              It’s been done, search here using the technology filters:

            2. unlucky says:

              Why do you need a rail? Just put a weight on an elevator-type cable and hoist it up.

              The amount of energy stored isn’t sufficient for the cost. Gravity just isn’t strong enough.

        4. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          “Round-trip efficiency isn’t great”

          Round trip efficiency for such systems is not as important as it may look at the first glance.
          Record solar electricity PPA is some 2.42 cnt/kWh in Abu Dhabi, and the trend is down.
          New Kauai Island (HI) project by the same AES has PPA to sell electricity for 11 cnt/kWh in late 2018, record low price. Dispatchable battery storage is much more expensive than solar or wind at random times and it is likely it will stay so for foreseeable future.

      3. Toni says:

        Pumped hydro(or any hydro) usually destroys the ecosystem of the river it is built on.
        It is not an ecological energy source/storage at all!

      4. JIMJFOX says: .
        Here, in the hopefully near future is a realistic fully scalable answer to storage; affordable, cheap, clean & believable.

        Billions of tiny L-ion batteries ain’t gonna do it.

    2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

      US energy storage capacity in the form of nat. gas underground storage is over 9,000 bln. cu. feet. Or 2,600,000 GWh.
      Baker field in Montana alone provides 287 Bcf total energy storage, or 84,000 GWh.

      Claim of “World Record Energy Storage System” for some 0.12 GWh sounds a bit silly 😉

      1. However, can you recharge that Natural Gas Storage Capacity on a daily basis?

        1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          > can you recharge that Natural Gas Storage Capacity on a daily basis

          Hmm, obviously you can, just pump natural gas, synthetic methane or elementary hydrogen from pipeline as usual and it will be “recharged”. This is how it works in current economy and provides supply for both daily and seasonal natural gas demand fluctuations. Part of it is converted to electricity.

      2. Ben says:

        Seems like you are missing the storage part of the equation. We aren’t manufacturing natural gas so having a massive spot to store it isn’t particularly useful. Perhaps you meant reserves?

        1. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          We are not manufacturing natural gas because well, it is “natural”. But we are manufacturing substitute gas. Like gas from biomass. Syngas (H2+CO) is also still manufactured in Hawaii and North Dakota I think, even if most of it was substituted with natural gas half a century ago. Germany has pilot plants manufacturing synthetic methane or hydrogen and injecting into pipelines, as they take switching to green energy more seriously than US and are more advanced on that front.

  2. DJ says:

    Good to see AES leading the charge – literally 🙂

  3. MikeG says:

    I was reading a research report on Energy Storage and was surprised that today’s tech considered “Mature Technology” consists of Pumped Hydro, Compressed air energy storage (CAES) and lead-acid batteries.

    Li-ion storage is considered in “Deployment” and may move to “Mature Technology” in the next few years.

    Interesting read:

    1. DJ says:

      And Fuel Cells are considered mature while batteries are considered in their infancy…

      People seem to use whatever best fits their narrative.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        A “mature tech” is one that can’t be substantially improved, and has reached the practical limits of development. For example, the internal combustion engine is a mature technology.

        So the report in question is correct for both secondary (rechargeable) batteries and for fuel cells. Batteries have a great deal of room for improvement — theoretically, orders of magnitude — whereas fuel cells have very little, despite the wishful thinking of “fool cell” fanboys.

        1. DJ says:

          Poopoo spouting his crap as usual…

          1. philip d says:

            Mature Technology definition:

            “A mature technology is a technology that has been in use for long enough that most of its initial faults and inherent problems have been removed or reduced by further development.”

            Examples of mature technologies:

            Farming, most advances are in slight improvements of breeds or in pest reduction

            Motor vehicle, widely used by non-experts, the general principles have not changed for decades

            Firearm, typified by assault rifle technology, most advances are slight improvements as manufacturers alter balances between weight, firepower, range, and accuracy

            Bicycle, another mature form of transport

            So what he is saying is correct and not crap.

            1. unlucky says:

              What Pushy is not at all what the definition you quote is.

              Pushy said a mature tech cannot be substantially further developed. The definition you quote (which I believe is correct) says that a mature tech is a proven one, one which already has been substantially further developed. It doesn’t mean it cannot be substantially developed further.

        2. Michael Will says:


          but consider the potential of something like this done with hydrogen instead of gasolene

          1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:


            but consider the potential of something like this done with lithium-ion batteries instead of hydrogen

    2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

      > I was reading a research report on Energy Storage and was surprised that today’s tech considered “Mature Technology” consists of Pumped Hydro, Compressed air energy storage (CAES) and lead-acid batteries.

      Li Ion was too expensive until recently to be used in utility grade projects. While technology is mature by itself, its deployment for utility grade frequency regulation or short term storage is relatively new, it just started to be used in pilot projects.

      As for the moronic trolling by Pu-pu about technological progress being impossible except for technologies he worships, it has no basis as usual.

  4. realistic says:

    First of all, many thanks for publishing this not-a-Tesla energy storage post. I was complaining about the absence of a post a couple of weeks ago, and you came through.

    Up front: you are showing Samsung SDI batteries, and I said the SDG&E project was LG. I stated this based on the press release of LG as the “preferred” supplier for the moment in AES’s Advancion line:

    If it is indeed Samsung, hats off to you for the correct ID.

    I would say that AES is not really “competing” with Tesla for these installations. AES is a significant leader in this field and has been promoting grid-level battery storage with governments and utilities and in policy circles for at least a decade. (You know by now I’m a major complainer about Musk mania, and the level of credit Tesla gets for in effect being the global pioneer in this area is infuriating to those of us who have been around the concept for some time.) AES installations are really turnkey all the way through structures, HVAC, telematics and other features that have been developed and deployed on several continents with renewable and conventional (carbon) sources.

    Interestingly they have done this while being profitable with positive Operating Cash Flow and paying a dividend. (Not disruptive, I know.)

    1. Lad says:

      Many working people know little of Samsung and L.G.; but, they know of Tesla because Tesla gets lots of mainstream press. Seems to me if Tesla is held up as a positive influence for the movement to clean energy, one can overlook the Musk hero worship for the sake of educating the uninformed.

  5. buu says:

    maybe the same cells as i3 🙂

    1. cros13 says:

      They are…

  6. unlucky says:

    Great to see. Looks like this was built off site and trucked in? That’s a smart way to build something like this. I should have paid more attention to how Tesla configured their installation.

  7. Someone out there says:

    It looks like they could refine the installation process a little bit. Why are they fiddling with all those small modules on-site? They should pre-assemble entire stacks at the factory and lift them into place in the containers. Or even assemble the containers themselves in the factory although they might be too heavy for transport then.

    1. realistic says:

      I agree, but the overall efficiency of the installation isn’t always the winner.

      You can bet that the Advancion concept is a very modular assembly. But there are a couple of things that may make the battery installation site-based:
      (1) AES is quite vocally “agnostic” about who gets to supply the cells and they do compete the hell out of the supplier base. The Module is flexible to take a variety of assemblies from different makers, and importation/availability of the winner’s product is a factor.

      (2) Storage projects tend to have a significant percentage of government-supported financing and/or guarantees. In the US, depending on the funding agency, there can be everything from Project Labor Agreements that require Union shop participation to set-asides for Minority-Owned/Disadvantaged businesses. In situations like these, companies like AES and SDG&E will often reserve fabrication, “heavy-lifting”, final assembly and other site labor elements to meet those contract stipulations.

      There are similar requirements for projects around the world that include local sourcing, sometimes up to 100% of the value of the job (which means you have to find offsets through local shops for other work that you export to your own factories or for long-term service agreements).

      Number (2) shows why many of us in this business laughed our butts off the morning we read Musk’s tweets about “fixed and open terms” for international utility work. Hilarious.

      1. Damocles Axe says:

        That’s not what Elon said:

        Elon Musk‏Verified account @elonmusk Mar 9

        @shails Yes, but shipping, taxes/tariffs and installation labor vary by country, as those costs are beyond our control

        1. realistic says:

          Nothing about offsets or similar special contract terms, requirements set forth by government banks, etc is addressed in Musk’s modification to his original remark. You’re missing the point: companies end up changing key elements of their product strategy over these things, long before “shipping, tariffs/taxes and installation” are considered.

          There is no such thing as “fixed and open terms” in utility project contracting. This was one of those off-the-cuff Musk things that makes his various executive staff members cringe.

          1. unlucky says:

            Seriously. Musk is a bit weird about public pricing. To a (minor) fault. He’s tilting at windmills.

            If you really had open pricing your competition would just calculate your price then subtract 2% and bid below you every time.

            1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              It makes sense if your costs are far enough below that of your competition that they can’t underbid you without taking a loss. Otherwise, as you say, it makes no sense.

              Please note I’m not claiming that Tesla’s costs for making li-ion batteries are that low. I have no idea if they can profitably underbid LG Chem.

              1. unlucky says:

                If your prices are that much lower than your competitors then you probably should raise them. You are leaving money on the table. You may not go out of business, but you’re failing to maximize your profit.

                And either way, in the longer term your competitor can drive their volumes up and starve you of business by taking losses. They could eventually have a higher volume than you and thus their costs would be lower than yours.

                Public pricing just doesn’t make a lot of sense in a bid business.

    2. unlucky says:

      I’m sure if you did the math on the weight of a semi-trailer sized block of batteries it would be too expensive to transport via road.

      But it does seem like they could have partially assembled these to a greater extent before shipping. Perhaps there isn’t the cost-savings we think of for making larger modules off site?

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Yes, an entire standard shipping container stuffed full of li-ion battery packs would be far too heavy to transport via standard tractor-trailer rig.

        Better to make the modules smaller (i.e., lighter) so they can be trucked in using standard tractor-trailer rigs.

        1. mg says:

          Well I did the math. Not really. 5MWh unit should weight about 40.000 kg (25 x Powerpack2, or 125 Wh/kg). I looked up and standard 3-axle semitrailer for 40 feet container has capacity of about 30.000 kg. Add 4th axle and it shoud be enough. Not to mention that bigger unit might have better Wh/kg relation that relativly small powerpack. So building it off-site and transporting via roads with minor assamby on-site seems perfectly doable.

          1. unlucky says:

            Not every state allows you to just add axles. California will not permit a vehicle over 80,000lbs if it can be divided no matter how many axles you put on.

            So your math showed that they could not bring it in in one piece. You already have an 88,000lb load and the weight of the vehicle would add to that further.

            1. mg says:

              I just watched the video. They indeed put stuff together on-site. And You are right to point out the legal total weight limitation. I’m european so i looked up my country limits, and they are set on weight per axle basis. On the other hand, still it is not out of posibility that some 60k lbs per container is achievable. That would be just under 200Wh/kg. Perhaps in the near future such amount might be put into 20 feet container. I just wanted to point out that assumption of impossibility is not necessary true. As the rule – not in this case as I admitted.

  8. speculawyer says:

    Excellent. Competition is good!

    If they control them properly, batteries can provide a LOT of great services to the grid. Things like frequency regulation, allow transmission lines to be delayed, duck curve issue, demand charge avoidance, etc.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      Yes, let’s hear it for competition in this field! The more, the better.

      🙂 🙂 🙂

  9. JIMJFOX says:

    Surely this approach is not scalable to national demand levels? Making gazillions of tiny batteries sounds so implausible, not to mention the limited lifespan and environmental damage from mining the lithium & other ingredients.

    The only real long-term practical future I see is rapid development of distributed Gen IV nuclear modular reactors, using thorium ideally in a LFTR design. or something similar

  10. Ron M says:

    The world record energy battery storage system looks like it will soon fall. Australia and Tesla have had some tweets about a 100-300 mwh system and already there’s talk of increasing that to a 1GW.

    1. Mark F says:

      AES look likely to beat their own record. They’re already contracted and building a 400MWh system in LA.

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