San Diego Zoo Adds Storage to its Energy Menagerie

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San Diego Zoo Global has chosen a unit of EDF Renewables North America to provide a 1 MW/4 MWh energy storage system that is designed to reduce energy costs while limiting emissions at the zoo.

The zoo will use the storage project to smooth spikes in energy usage, thereby, lowering demand charges. The system will also minimize energy costs by recharging the battery when wholesale electricity prices are low and discharging power to the zoo when costs are high.

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EDF Renewables North America Distributed Solutions structured the 12-year contract for the energy storage system as a shared savings agreement.

“We operate the battery and split the savings achieved based on performance,” said Michael Robinson, senior business development manager at EDF Renewables.

EDF also financed and installed the storage project.

To help cover projects costs, the zoo has applied for a $1 million rebate from California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, administered on behalf of San Diego Gas & Electric by the Center for Sustainable Energy.

Savings achieved from the system will pay for the project on an ongoing basis, said Adam Ringler, director of performance improvement at San Diego Zoo Global.

The zoo is a direct access customer, which means it buys its power at wholesale rates directly from the California Independent System Operator. The only rates it pays to the utility are demand charges. The energy storage system, which is expected to enter service in May or July 2019, avoids demand charges by cutting the zoo’s energy use during periods of peak demand. The storage system will also be used for some energy arbitrage by taking advantage of wholesale power price volatility.

The energy storage project is one of the larger investments in the zoo’s sustainability program and its “first foray into potential new technology we might deploy going forward,” Ringler said. “We have to see what the results are.”

San Diego Zoo


Zoo’s existing microgrid

In 2010-2011, working with Smart City San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric installed a microgrid at the zoo that comprises 10 solar canopies that power five electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the zoo parking lot. The charging stations of the solar-to-EV project are powered by a 90-kW solar array over the parking lot canopies.

The solar-to-EV project was designed to provide essential charging infrastructure, showcase San Diego’s commitment to clean energy, and to help improve San Diego’s air quality.

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The system includes a lithium ion polymer battery system to store solar energy and charge the EVs after sunset. The storage system offsets power demands on the grid, and when batteries are full, the excess solar energy is sent to the grid to improve reliability. Because the system’s inverters are bi-directional, they can also source energy from the grid during off peak hours to charge the batteries. With the energy storage system, the charging infrastructure can island as a unit in the event of an outage.

In addition to the solar to-EV microgrid, the zoo has a variety of generators for different purposes. Eventually “it would nice one day to have all the generators hooked up” and managed and controlled in an integrated way, Ringler said.

San Diego Zoo Global is a non-profit organization that operates the San Diego Zoo and related enterprises.

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