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Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and the California Energy Commission have unveiled a battery energy storage system pilot project to better balance power needs of the electric grid.

The Yerba Buena Battery Energy Storage System Pilot Project, located in San Jose, charges batteries when demand is low and then sends reserved power to the grid when demand grows. PG&E says this smart grid pilot includes utility-scale sodium-sulfur battery energy storage, has a 4 MW capacity and can store more than six hours of energy.

"Battery storage holds tremendous promise in helping electric utilities like PG&E enhance the overall reliability of an ever-changing energy supply," says Greg Kiraly, PG&E's senior vice president of distribution operations. "This pilot project will provide critical, real-world data on the technical and financial performance of battery energy storage to help us understand how battery storage devices can serve PG&E's customers and the overall electric grid."

The project was made possible thanks to a $3.3 million grant from the Energy Commission to PG&E that will help fund the installation and evaluation of the system.

"Investments in energy storage are critical to California reaching its renewable energy goals," says Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller.

PG&E is working in close coordination with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to study how sodium-sulfur battery energy storage can improve power quality and reliability, support greater integration of intermittent renewable power and supply energy to California's electricity market, overseen by the California Independent System Operator. EPRI's reports will be made available to the public.

S&C Electric Co. is the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project and supplied the storage management system and power conversion equipment that control the battery's AC input/output and its interface with the electric grid. NGK Insulators is the manufacturer of the sodium-sulfur battery system, which includes the battery modules and control system for managing DC input/output and other parameters for maximizing module longevity.

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