Oxnard powers up with region’s biggest battery facility
One of the largest energy storage facilities in the United States was unveiled to the public on June 29, as Oxnard and Ventura County residents, politicians, and business leaders gathered to see the 100-megawatt battery storage system in action.
The facility, the Saticoy Energy Storage Site, works by capturing energy during the day when the power grid can get a fair share of power from wind, solar and other renewable resources. The system’s batteries then provide energy back to the grid when wind and solar are less available.
The new battery facility could power all of Oxnard for about four hours and all of Ventura County for about 30 minutes.
“The problem (for power grids) is at five or six o’clock seven o’clock in the evening, that’s when power grids in this part of the country are stressed,” said John Breckenridge, a senior managing director of system owner Capital Dynamics. “But this is really the perfect solution for those problems.”
The site took about two years to build, with construction finishing in Dec. 2020. According to site manager Arturo Hernandez, there were no COVID cases contracted during the entire construction period.
“This whole project gives me goosebumps,” Ventura County Supervisor Carmen Ramirez told the Business Times. “But it also shows me you can’t let things happen… sometimes you have to demand things.”
Before the Saticoy site became a reality, a gas-fired power plant was proposed to be built there in 2015. This power plant would replace the aging facilities at the Mandalay Generating Station on the Oxnard coast, a station that is no longer in use.
But, local residents vehemently denied the building of another power plant that would be both bad for the community and the environment. Ramirez, then a member of the Oxnard City Council, was one of the leaders of the fight against the power plant.
“Oxnard has the distinction of being a community of hard working, many immigrant families who haven’t had all the advantages of other communities,” Ramirez said. “But they rose up and said, ‘We want something better for our future and our children’ and against many odds, we have this fantastic modern facility, which is going to help us do our part to combat climate change, and I am proud to be a part of this effort.”
The battery storage facility was constructed by Arevon Asset Management, which creates a slew of renewable energy infrastructure solutions across the United States.
Arevon is a subsidiary of Capital Dynamics, which took over the project from the original developer, Strata Clean Energy.
The facility is made up of 36 transformers, which each contain four Tesla megapack units. Each 142 megapack unit is the equivalent of 35-45 regular Tesla car batteries. Each transformer has a capacity of about 750 kilowatts.
Arevon CEO Justin Johnson told the Business Times this is the first battery storage facility the company has built. Arevon now has plans to build more of them in California, including in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Another developer, Vistra, is pursuing an even larger battery facility in Morro Bay. At 600 megawatts, it would be the largest such facility in the world.
Arevon’s Oxnard site is set to stand for “as long as it is needed,” Breckenridge said. The electricity from the site is also supplied to Southern California Edison under the terms of a 20-year purchase and sale agreement.
Oxnard Mayor John Zaragoza said the battery site will generate millions in tax revenue for both the city and the county.
It has also brought a slew of jobs, Ramirez said, but more importantly, she said it brings with it the “inspiration” for the young kids in the community to strive for these future jobs.
“This kind of technology doesn’t require a lot of hands on, but it does ultimately need people to know how to do the technology,” Ramirez said. “And I think it’s inspiring to young people to get into renewable energy and all these other jobs… We can be the leaders, you don’t have to be a hedge fund manager or be the richest to be a leader.”