Future Friday: Pacific Gas and Electric Company – Unlocking the Grid of the Future

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Note from the editor: This year as part of our 20th Anniversary, we are not only looking back at the past, but also setting our sights on the future. This column, Future Fridays, features guest blog posts from WBENC’s America’s Top Corporations for Women’s Business Enterprises as they share insights on the future of doing business with them and their industry. 

Unlocking the Grid of the Future - Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) 

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California.

PG&E supports the increasingly complex and dynamic energy needs and desires of its customers, including private solar, energy storage, electrification of transportation, and the achievement of California’s environmental and energy policy goals.

 
PG&E has connected more than 300,000 solar customers to the energy grid, representing about 25 percent of private rooftop solar in the country. PG&E connects about 5,000 new solar customers to the grid every month. PG&E connects new solar customers to the grid in three business days or less – compared to the industry average of four weeks. Additionally, PG&E’s Solar Choice program offers a new way for PG&E customers to go solar – without installing rooftop solar panels. Through the program, residential and business customers can go solar by purchasing up to 100 percent of their electricity from solar energy generated in PG&E’s service area.

PG&E has connected more than 300,000 solar customers to the energy grid, representing about 25 percent of private rooftop solar in the country. PG&E connects about 5,000 new solar customers to the grid every month. PG&E connects new solar customers to the grid in three business days or less – compared to the industry average of four weeks. Additionally, PG&E’s Solar Choice program offers a new way for PG&E customers to go solar – without installing rooftop solar panels. Through the program, residential and business customers can go solar by purchasing up to 100 percent of their electricity from solar energy generated in PG&E’s service area.

 

The rapid growth of distributed energy resources (DERs) – such as private solar and energy storage -- has ushered in a new era of electric distribution, and we’re seeing the smarter grid emerging as a reliability, storage and interconnection system that complements the new energy technologies that our customers are using in their homes.

In building and maintaining the smart grid that is “always on” for its customers, whenever they need it, PG&E embraces innovation, the integration of new technologies, and collaboration with leading companies and organizations to drive a clean energy future.

A great example of where PG&E “walks the walk” in this regard is in the blossoming business of battery energy storage.

PG&E is no stranger to energy storage: the company’s been at it since the early 1980s with pumped hydroelectric storage, and over the past five years PG&E has deployed three grid-scale battery energy storage systems.

The four megawatt (MW) Yerba Buena Battery in San Jose and the two MW Vaca-Dixon Battery in Vacaville were deployed in 2013, and both feature sodium-sulfur battery technology.

 
PG&E currently owns and operates two utility-scale, sodium-sulfur battery storage systems: the 2 MW Vaca-Dixon battery (pictured) and the 4 MW Yerba Buena Battery in San Jose. The Vaca-Dixon system is the first battery storage resource in California to participate in the California electricity market. PG&E believes that utility-scale storage has the potential to help customers save money and energy, address the integration challenges associated with increasing penetration of renewables and DERs, and enhance the overall reliability of an ever-changing energy supply.  

PG&E currently owns and operates two utility-scale, sodium-sulfur battery storage systems: the 2 MW Vaca-Dixon battery (pictured) and the 4 MW Yerba Buena Battery in San Jose. The Vaca-Dixon system is the first battery storage resource in California to participate in the California electricity market. PG&E believes that utility-scale storage has the potential to help customers save money and energy, address the integration challenges associated with increasing penetration of renewables and DERs, and enhance the overall reliability of an ever-changing energy supply.

 

 

The Vaca-Dixon system is the first battery storage resource in California to provide energy and ancillary services in California Independent System Operator (CAISO) markets. The Yerba Buena system is the first battery storage resource to both participate in the market and serve a reliability function supporting PG&E’s distribution system in the event of a disturbance or outage.

Building on the success of these systems, in 2017 PG&E deployed its third energy storage facility in Browns Valley – an unincorporated community in Yuba County – roughly 50 miles north of Sacramento. Appropriately named the Browns Valley battery, this new 0.5 MW system is PG&E’s first lithium-ion energy storage facility and features Tesla Powerpack technology.

Browns Valley is PG&E’s first lithium-ion energy storage facility and features Tesla Powerpack technology. PG&E worked with Cupertino Electric, an electrical engineering and construction company headquartered in San Jose, on the design and installation of the facility.

Browns Valley is PG&E’s first lithium-ion energy storage facility and features Tesla Powerpack technology. PG&E worked with Cupertino Electric, an electrical engineering and construction company headquartered in San Jose, on the design and installation of the facility.

These energy storage systems can charge batteries when demand is low and then send reserved power to the grid when demand grows. The systems have the potential to provide important services for balancing energy supply and demand, helping to support greater integration of intermittent renewable generation, as well as improving power quality and reliability for customers. Ultimately, PG&E believes grid-scale energy storage could also help its customers save money and energy.

But these large-scale systems are only a part of PG&E’s efforts to integrate storage into the grid.

The company is currently collaborating with Tesla, GE & Green Charge on another project in San Jose to demonstrate how behind-the-meter energy storage and rooftop solar connected to smart inverters can be used to support the electric grid during periods of high demand.

The project represents a unique, open ecosystem where these DERs can be used to provide participating residents and businesses with services such as backup power and bill reduction. And along the way, the project collaborators are learning best practices for deploying this kind of energy management technology on a larger scale and identifying investments that will be required to modernize and enable a more interactive grid.  

The project is a microcosm of what the smart grid will look like and how it will operate in the near future when energy storage, electric vehicles and other DERs will become increasingly prevalent and seemingly ubiquitous.

And it’s a tangible example of PG&E’s mission of building the energy network of tomorrow, while focusing on safely delivering clean, affordable and reliable energy today.

 
Battery systems from Green Charge are installed at a supermarket in San Jose. The installation is a part of PG&E’s technology demonstration to test battery storage and rooftop solar connected to smart inverters that will support the electric grid during periods of high electric demand while providing participating customers with backup power and bill reduction.  

Battery systems from Green Charge are installed at a supermarket in San Jose. The installation is a part of PG&E’s technology demonstration to test battery storage and rooftop solar connected to smart inverters that will support the electric grid during periods of high electric demand while providing participating customers with backup power and bill reduction.

 

 

In 2016 PG&E spent a record $2.85 billion dollars with diverse suppliers, which accounted for 44 percent of the company’s total procurement spend. Through its work with diverse suppliers, PG&E is increasing economic opportunities in its local communities while also enhancing the quality of service it provides to customers.

 
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Visit pge.com/supplychainresponsibility to learn more about PG&E’s Supplier Diversity programs offered through its Supply Chain Responsibility team.

Posted on August 25, 2017 and filed under Future Friday.