New Deals for California Energy Storage Companies that Make Buildings into Virtual Power Plants

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California and Hawaii are about to see more transformation of buildings into a kind of virtual power plant with projects announced this week by two energy storage companies pushing the concept.

Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) is working with real estate developer Irvine Company and SunEdison to create what it calls hybrid-electric buildings that will sell services to the grid. Meanwhile, Stem has a deal with Hawaiian Electric to install energy storage for the utility’s commercial customers, which will be used for grid stability.

AMS will install Tesla batteries in 24 office buildings in Irvine in the first phase of its project.

The large batteries, which will take up the equivalent of about five parking spaces at each building, will help serve the energy needs for each building, as well as sell services to the electric grid to reduce strain during periods of peak demand.

AMS expects the storage systems to provide Southern California Edison with up to 10 MW of reserve capacity, enough to supply power to 10,000 homes. The company plans to install the first units before year’s end.

SunEdison will finance, install and operate Tesla’s Powerpack commercial battery system in the buildings.

“SCE is tapping into the power of their own customers’ building load to manage the grid. This revolutionary partnership between a utility and its customers represents the future of the electric grid,” said Susan Kennedy, CEO at AMS.

Energy storage balances solar

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Stem is working with Hawaiian Electric to install 1 MW of energy storage through a $2.1-million pilot program backed by the company, utility and the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research.

The project began with installation of a 36-kW energy storage system at Watanabe Floral, a family-operated kamaaina company, and will expand to the Honolulu Museum of Art, Menehune Water and other Oahu organizations and businesses.

Like the AMS buildings, Stem’s customers will use data analytics to respond to spikes in electricity use, and draw on stored power to reduce costs.

The Stem program also is aimed at bringing greater grid stability to Hawaiian Electric as use of solar energy increases.

Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president for corporate planning and business development, said that the utility sees energy storage supported by intelligent software as “an increasingly essential component” of its business

Kimura added that the energy storage will allow the utility to modernize its system, integrate more renewables, create greater grid stability, and help the utility reach its renewable goals.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.