Grid-scale energy storage is moving from its pilot program phase to its early commercialization phase. And the slow road to commercialization at U.S. utilities comes in the form of requests for quotation and solicitations like the one issued by the Imperial Irrigation District and the many other energy storage RFQs we've been tracking. The IID just announced the shortlisted vendors on its 40-megawatt energy storage RFQ.

The Imperial Irrigation District is a municipal utility that provides power and water services to about 150,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in the southeastern part of California's desert. Earlier this year, the utility issued QR 123, the start of a solicitation for 20 megawatts to 40 megawatts of battery storage. IID is also the third-largest public power utility in the state and the nation’s largest irrigation district.

The energy storage solicitation was very broad and asked that the project address ramp, regulation, capacity, ancillary services, system reliability and power quality.

In the initial stage, the utility was simply looking at vendor qualifications and getting input from companies including A123 Systems, Black & Veatch Renewables, Borrego Solar Systems, Clairvoyant Energy, Coachella Energy Storage Partners, EnerVault, Prudent Energy, S&C Electric, Stem, Tenaska Solar Ventures and Xtreme Power.

The IID just selected the following nine firms to continue to "the next phase of the solicitation process":

  1. AES Energy Storage
  2. Black & Veatch
  3. Coachella Energy Storage
  4. Duke Energy Business Services
  5. Invenergy Storage Development
  6. PMCCA, dba Performance Mechanical Contractors
  7. S&C Electric Company
  8. UC Synergetic  (Hitachi)
  9. ZBB Energy Corporation

The solicitation will soon follow.  

As we've pointed out, there is already a roster of incumbents in this emerging field, and the decision-makers at IID went with companies that have track records or local connections. Notably, ZBB, a small zinc-bromide flow battery firm, is also on the short list. But startups without a track record or balance sheet are facing strong headwinds in these competitive bids.

Last June, the PUC asked California's big three investor-owned utilities to procure 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020, along with setting market mechanisms to launch the procurement process.

The recent 50-megawatt Southern California Edison Los Angeles Basin Energy Storage RFQ was notable for the effort taken to identify the true value of grid-scale energy storage. In the words of John Zahurancik, VP of Deployment and Operations at AES Energy Storage, "The Edison RFQ is the first formal recognition by a state that [energy storage] absolutely has value." Zahurancik saw the SCE solicitation as a "way to get started" in enhancing "local capacity and local reliability."  Praveen Kathpal, AES Energy Storage's VP of market and regulatory affairs, said that the RFQ is oriented toward local capacity requirements in the Los Angeles Basin -- a capacity alternative offering "where energy storage can perform the same functions as building a new peaking power plant." 

Hawaii Electric Co. launched one of the biggest energy storage proposals in the country last week, quietly opening up requests for proposals of 60 to 200 megawatts of storage project to help manage the solar and wind power that’s wreaking havoc with Oahu’s island grid. As Jeff St. John just reported, the announcement from HECO subsidiary Hawaiian Electric asks for proposals for “one or more large-scale energy storage systems able to store 60 to 200 megawatts for up to 30 minutes.” That means the utility is looking for projects of at least 60 megawatts, with an eye on several separate projects to meet different grid needs around the island, HECO spokesperson Peter Rossegg said in an interview earlier this month. “We want someone to do the whole project, from design to testing to commissioning,” he said. “Beyond that, we could own it, we could turnkey it, we could do it on a provider basis. We’re trying to cast as wide a net as possible.” The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative put out a much smaller RFP in March and received nearly 100 responses, he noted, and HECO is expecting many more for Oahu.

New York state is, after California (and possibly Hawaii), the country’s biggest market for next-generation batteries and grid-scale energy storage. St. John notes that the action includes Long Island Power Authority’s request for up to 150 megawatts of energy storage, a soon-to-be-unveiled storage incentive program from Consolidated Edison, and emerging opportunities in microgrids, behind-the-meter storage, renewable energy integration and other grid edge applications.

To learn more about how utilities are integrating storage to manage distributed energy resources, join Greentech Media at Grid Edge Live in San Diego June 24-25.