DEPCOM Power helps fast track BESS projects into CAISO market
Author: Neda Aghvami, Director of Project Finance and Development Support
California’s 25 Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) have a singular mission: Deliver clean energy while securing reliability and resiliency for the 11 million customers they serve. As of 2021, CCAs serve more than 50 GWhs of load, or a quarter of what’s handled by California’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs). By 2022, their share of the state’s IOU load is expected to reach 38%.
Operating under the purview of California’s nation-leading climate goals, CCAs need to source 60 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045.
Storage plugs into CCA plans
CCAs are procuring solar-plus-storage and standalone battery energy storage systems (BESS) across the Golden State. Thus far, CCAs have contracted for more than 6.1 gigawatts (GWs) of solar, and just over 4 GWs, or about 66%, is paired with energy storage.
The outlook for storage is bright. To meet the 2045 mandate, CCAs will procure 20 GWs of renewable energy storage by 2030.
Tapping into the advantages of energy storage
BESS offer a myriad of grid benefits as they help to balance intermittent renewable energy production, add resiliency to electricity networks, lower electricity costs, and postpone the need for midterm new transmission upgrades. In California, storage can help manage the so-called duck curve that forms when high mid-day solar energy production meets low demand, later reversing as evening peak demand is met by low solar energy production. This phenomenon is becoming apparent in other states with large amounts of solar-only procurements like New Mexico and Texas.
CCAs see the most value from storage when they pair it with local renewables and resources as needed. This lets CCAs deliver ratepayers top value on the wholesale energy markets while maintaining reliability and resiliency.
Storage can also create microgrid “islands” to help shield communities from Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) and natural shutdown events caused by high winds, wildfires, and other disasters.
Complex path to achieving community choice storage
With the energy storage boom, it’s a complex path to new BESS capacity.
- Interconnection woes threaten commercial operation
The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees infrastructure planning, has seen a doubling of BESS applications from 155 in previous groups to 373 today. The current supercluster — Cluster 14 — is stalled, jeopardizing the interconnection timeframe for nearly all of the projects under CAISO jurisdiction. As a result, these projects risk missing their commercial operation dates (COD).
CCAs are contending with extended timelines for the interconnection studies required for projects over 5 MW. Cluster 14 interconnections are delayed by a full year, with the earliest COD pushed out two years to December 2026.
2. Resource adequacy at risk
CA’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) mandates that load-serving entities (LSEs) provide new resources to ensure reliable grid operation. This resource adequacy (RA) mandate requires 11.5 GWs of new procurement to address the state’s mid-term reliability by 2026.
Above-mentioned interconnection challenges conflict with CPUC mandates that half of the new resources come from long-duration storage and half from zero-emitting resources in 2026.
Further complicating matters, the RA mandate imposes deliverability options on LSEs, making it harder for them to meet their targets in the first place. There is not nearly enough RA available to allocate deliverability to the 100 GWs of active projects in cluster 14, let alone any new projects.
3. Stringent environmental permits create challenges
CCAs also must comply with the state’s time-consuming and high cost land-use permitting process. In some parts of the state, land use permits for systems over 5 MWs can cost half a million and take up to 36 months. Smaller systems under 5 MWs can be exempted from thorough environmental assessments and can be fast tracked.
DEPCOM’s BESS program streamlines process for California CCAs
As a one-source solutions provider with EPC and O&M capabilities around PV and energy storage, DEPCOM Power helps CCAs pursue BESS opportunities. Our Energy Storage FastTrack program is designed to overcome California’s market hurdles with the following smart parameters and services for fast integration:
- Smart System Size: BESS between 4 and 5 MWs and voltage line requirements under 60 kV represent unique advantages for streamlined interconnection.
- Selected System Type: Front-of-the-meter, distribution-level, and standalone projects on local agency sites or critical facilities can be more easily fast-tracked
- Plug-and-Play: Our storage solution leverages top-tier battery technologies, optimized for performance and ROI
- Secured Supply: We leverage our deep global supply agreements to bring CCAs expert, technology-agnostic procurement, tailored to each unique BESS needs
- Fast Track Interconnection: Our BESS solution is designed to address Cluster 14 transmission delays for faster grid interconnection
- Streamlined permitting: We work with agencies to obtain land-use permit exemptions, amend existing permits, or process shortened mitigated negative declarations (or MND)
- Project Financing: Our network of financiers and credit lenders provides resources for CCAs to support operational execution
- Fully-Wrapped EPC Solution: We bring more than 4 GWs of utility solar construction and 750 MWh of energy storage experience to value-engineer power quality solutions
- Integrated O&M: With over 1.5 GW under our O&M management, our Network Operations Center, testing, commissioning, and 99.4% fleet availability average work to ensure systems run at peak performance
In addition to our FastTrack program, DEPCOM can also upgrade existing solar sites with new stand-alone BESS additions.
Achieve reliability and resiliency with a one source solution provider
CCAs don’t just provide control over electricity choices. They arm their customers with locally sourced renewable energy to help them reach climate and economic goals while reinvesting in people and communities.
DEPCOM — which prioritizes sourcing materials and components from American suppliers — shares CCAs’ commitment to the local businesses where we build solar and BESS plants.
We help CCAs find pain-free methods to boost resiliency. Through merging our end-to-end development, EPC, and O&M capabilities with our BESS expertise, we help CCAs meet their reliability commitments without costly transmission upgrades or lengthy application delays.
With more than a decade of solar procurement, our teams validate top-tier energy storage equipment across our network of technology-agnostic suppliers. And because we feature in-house civil, structural, and electrical engineering teams, we can optimize your BESS to prevent costly overbuilds and maximize revenue.
Learn how we have helped other California CCAs with their energy storage projects. Contact email@example.com
About the author: Neda Aghvami
Neda serves as Director of Project Finance and Development support at DEPCOM Power out of the Los Angeles office. Neda brings over 12 years of solar and storage experience. She has developed over 500 MWs of utility-scale PV projects in California and is currently managing several standalone storage projects across the state. Neda holds a master’s of science in industrial and engineering management from California State University, Northridge.