The AES power plant in southeast Long Beach is building its way toward a more sustainable future for Southern California, according to its officials.

Executives from the company joined city officials at the plant on Thursday, June 27, to break ground on the property’s next big project: A battery storage facility the size of a football field that, once operational, will store enough power to supply four hour’s worth of electricity to more than 66,000 homes.

“If you take a look at where California, and frankly the world, is going with sustainable energy,” AES Southland Energy President Ken Zagzebski said, “a project this size — one of the largest in the world — really is a part of that.”

The facility, company executives said, is expected to begin providing power Jan. 1, 2021, to Southern California Edison customers in Los Angeles County, most of Orange County and portions of San Bernardino County.

“This facility is even more important now than it was when it was first proposed and we received the contract with Southern California Edison,” Stephen O'Kane, vice president, AES Alamitos Energy, LLC., said Friday. “California has moved even more aggressively to renewable sources of energy. We’re already ahead of our 2020 goals… Storage has become even more important for the grid to work today.”

The 45,000 square-foot battery facility will produce 400 megawatt-hours when fully charged, meaning it can discharge at a rate of 100 megawatts for four hours.

Clothes dryers in the U.S., for example, require between 1.8 and 5 kilowatts of power to run; if you used a 5-kilowatt dryer for two hours — and nothing else that day — the Electric Company would charge you for 10 kilowatt-hours.

The new facility will enable AES to store power that is unneeded during hours of low demand and instantly transmit that power to the energy grid at times when power consumption increases, such as during a heat wave.

“Energy storage is our most flexible resource,” said Colin Cushnie, Southern California Edison’s vice president of power supply. “It can charge or discharge virtually instantaneously and helps us to maximize our use of renewable energy on the grid.”

The new facility is part of a bigger revamp of the property that’s expected to wrap up by next summer.

AES broke ground in 2017 on the Alamitos Energy Center, a new natural gas-fueled power plant that is slated to replace the current plant, which has some equipment that’s been in use since the 1950s.

Those new generators will be connected to the regional power grid, not the battery storage facility. They would be used to generate electricity when there isn’t enough to meet demand in the region.

“Those generators are all about local reliability,” O’Kane said. “Even with the battery storage, we still need the generation capacity.”

During Thursday’s ceremony, Councilwoman Suzie Price, whose Third District encompasses the plant, said she was excited to see what this project would mean for her district and for Long Beach more broadly.

“The benefits of this project aren’t just the fact that we’re going to have zero emissions,” she said. “They’re not just the fact that we’re going to change the skyline of southeast Long Beach forever as a result of the elimination of the (smoke) stacks and some of this outdated infrastructure.”

The first three (half) old generators will be decommissioned at the end of the year, O’Kane said, with demolition starting shortly after that.

“The thing about this project that’s really amazing,” Price said, “is that we’re a leader in this industry here in Long Beach for the world to see, and that makes me very proud.”

Harry Saltzgaver contributed to this story.

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