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In the US, Southern California Edison (SCE) has put forward a request for proposals for pre-engineered energy storage systems with plug and play capability for changing distribution grid project planning cycles.

According to the Energy Collective, the Californian utility said it would like to see energy storage solutions providers offering “‘pre-engineered’ storage systems, between 1MWh and 16MWh that can be built, shipped and installed and operational within seven months of commissioning.”

The utility says it requires standardised packaging and quick turnaround times to align energy storage systems to fit into rapidly changing distribution grid project cycles.

SCE’s definition of 'pre-engineered' storage systems include a combination of batteries, power converters and control systems that have been proven in field tests, and are capable of communicating with utility control systems via standard protocols.

Mark Irwin, director in SCE’s advanced technology department, proposed a new purchasing model of energy storage systems where utilities would ask vendors to compete for the role of serving as equipment provider for a less well-defined set of future projects.

Once projects have been selected, the utility would call upon the winning vendors to deliver the equipment as project plans are solidified.

Irwin said: “It’s a faster move toward catalogue or 'off the shelf' purchasing for energy storage solutions.

“When utilities decide to buy multiple products, this is how they decide to buy them.”

California energy storage mandates

The novel energy storage framework agreements come off the back of California state law, requiring state utilities, including SCE, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric to procure 1.3 Gigawatts of storage by 2020.

The request for proposals is aimed at reducing long lead times and specific requirements, while increasing flexibility of storage projects at multiple sites.

SCE added that ideally, it would also use storage solutions for other purposes such as selling excess energy into grid markets, as regulation allows.

Irwin added: “From a price standpoint, energy storage can only compete with some of the more expensive distribution upgrades that tend to take 18-24 months.

“If we had unexpected load growth, or derating of the current system, and we’d like to solve that problem before our next summer peak, but the non-storage upgrade takes until the following summer peak – we could solve that problem with a storage upgrade.”