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California battery’s black start capability hailed as ‘major accomplishment in the energy industry’

A utility in Southern California has successfully demonstrated the use of a battery energy storage system to provide a ‘black start’, firing up a combined cycle gas turbine from an idle state.

The utility Imperial Irrigation District (IID) announced news of the successful demonstration, which it said took place last week. IID was ranked as the utility to deploy the most energy storage in the US during 2016 by trade group the Smart Electric Power Association (SEPA) with 30MW installed,

Black starting is the restoration of power functions to an electric power generator, network or grid without having to call on external transmission lines. The 33MW / 20MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system (BESS), which in its everyday use provides grid stability and helps smooth the output from local renewable power sources, was used on 10 May to kick-start an IID 44MW combined cycle natural gas turbine, located at El Centro Generating Station in Imperial Valley, California.

The ability of batteries to provide this much-needed grid function has long been discussed. Improving the efficiency of existing thermal generators could be a quick way to deploy batteries and boost decarbonisation and make power networks more flexible.

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