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Tesla batteries will help power Irvine Co. buildings

Tesla batteries will help power Irvine Co. buildings

This is a Tesla battery that is set to be installed by the Irvine Co. as a source of energy storage at its commercial buildings in the city. COURTESY OF IRVINE CO.

By early 2016, the Irvine Company will be storing energy in Tesla batteries at the first of up to two dozen of its office buildings in Orange County, marking the development of the world’s first network of “hybrid electric” buildings, company executives say.

The real estate giant recently announced plans to have energy-storing battery systems – about the size of a few parking spaces – installed at many of its office properties, starting with 20 Pacifica, a 15-story office tower along I-405 in Irvine.

The company is partnering with San Francisco-based Advanced Microgrid Solutions to install the systems portfolio-wide. Irvine Co. has more than 500 buildings, which encompass nearly 40 million square feet.

Once the systems are installed at the buildings in Irvine, Southern California Edison will monitor them and draw energy in high-demand situations. The systems are expected to cut the buildings’ use of peak energy by 25 percent, lowering the company’s power bills.

“It’s all seamless,” said Rich Bluth, Irvine Co.’s vice president for energy management. “Our customers won’t see any difference.”

The company declined to share the project’s cost.

Last year, Advanced Microgrid Solutions won a contract with Southern California Edison to provide the utility with 50 megawatts of power from such battery-centered projects. The Irvine Co. agreement is the first step toward that total.

Southern California Edison has said it plans to add about 2,200 megawatts to the grid by 2022. One megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 average California homes, according to the state’s Energy Commission.

The shuttering of the San Onofre nuclear power plant reduced the amount of power in the Southern California region, said Susan Kennedy, CEO of Advanced Microgrid Solutions.

Kennedy served on the California Public Utilities Commission from 2003 to 2006. She has also held a number of senior positions with Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gray Davis, and with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The storage systems will turn the buildings into the equivalent of a small power plant, like those dubbed “peaker” plants – the term for facilities that provide short-term bursts in times of high demand, Kennedy said.

Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea said she is interested in having similar systems installed at city buildings. At a council meeting Tuesday, at her request, an energy industry expert spoke about the growth in energy storage.

“It’s an exciting new trend in the electric utility industry,” said Ted Flanigan, president of energy consulting group EcoMotion.

While Elon Musk’s Tesla has received most of the attention when it comes to energy storage, Flanigan said there are as many as a dozen companies in the state that he considers “reputable players” in the field.

Last year, Tesla began construction of a “gigafactory” in Nevada. The company has said the facility will be the world’s largest producer of lithium-ion batteries by 2020.

The battery technology that powers Tesla’s electric cars also was adapted for commercial, home and small business use.

The Irvine Co. has been in discussions with Advanced Microgrid Systems for about two years, said Mike LeBlanc, a senior vice president with the real estate firm.

Together, the Irvine buildings will be able to store as much as 10 megawatts, the companies said.

Of that, 60 percent is slated to be online by the end of 2016, the remainder by July 2017. Then, the company will move to install systems at its office buildings statewide.

“Energy storage is going to change the way we consume electrical power,” Kennedy said. “It will change the grid forever.”

Others are considering following in Edison’s footsteps, she said.

“In the not too distant future, it won’t make sense for a building not to store its own energy,” she said. “I think it will become building standard someday.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-2221 or sdecrescenzo@ocregister.com

The Orange County Register – News Headlines : Real Estate News