Strata Blazes Ahead With California Gas Peaker Replacement Battery, Taps Tesla

Another of the world’s largest battery projects is moving forward with construction in Southern California amid the coronavirus slowdown.

Strata Solar will begin construction in July on its 100-megawatt/400-megawatt-hour battery plant in Ventura County, north of Los Angeles along the coast. County authorities signed off on the final approvals over Zoom, allowing the project to keep on schedule, Strata SVP of Energy Storage Joshua Rogol told Greentech Media. It should be operational by early 2021.

That’s a welcome development for a project that serves as a test case for replacing new natural-gas plants with non-emitting battery storage. Strata’s Ventura Energy Storage project is the largest of a portfolio of batteries that utility Southern California Edison procured in place of a new NRG gas plant on the beach in Oxnard, California.

“We’re going to serve as the backbone resource for the Ventura area,” said Will Mitchell, Strata’s director of origination for the West.

Another grid challenge has risen to prominence in California: preemptive power shutoffs to stop grid equipment from starting wildfires in hot, dry and windy conditions. The Ventura battery, nestled between the Santa Barbara coast and the mountains, will provide a major source of local capacity if transmission lines over the mountains get disrupted due to wildfire risk.

Megapacks, assemble!

Strata chose Tesla as both the engineering, procurement and construction contractor and the supplier for the batteries. Ventura will use the company’s energy-dense new Megapack product.

Strata did extensive research but was impressed with the one-stop-shop service Tesla offered. 

“They're really one of very few suppliers that have a fully vertically integrated solution and have thought about safety and performance of software and hardware from the ground up,” Rogol said.

That also meant one party to deal with when crafting the capacity maintenance agreement, which ensures the project maintains its effective capacity to meet obligations to SCE over 20 years. And Tesla’s data and analytics on battery performance made it easier to analyze the project for financing purposes.

Since the battery is so large, Rogol expected to harness economies of scale by putting the packs in a purpose-built building enclosure. But the company’s analysis showed that a cabinet or container-based approach would actually work better in terms of capital expense, fire safety, insurance costs and permitting, he said.

A rendering depicts the Tesla Megapack units that will be installed at Strata's ventura project (Image credit: Tesla)

Energy storage offers growth market for Strata Solar

Strata Solar has installed a few batteries already, but the Ventura project vaults the company into the big leagues. Only a handful of companies have attempted building a battery at the 100-megawatt...