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Another energy storage facility could come to the Central Coast

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A new type of energy storage may be coming to the Central Coast in the near future—something the company behind it believes will help fill the void once Diablo Canyon closes.

Canadian-based company Hydrostor announced on Nov. 23 its plans to build a long-duration energy storage facility near Morro Bay called the Pecho Energy Storage Center. Hydrostor filed an application for certification with the California Energy Commission on the same day, the first public step in what will be a lengthy process.

GENERATING ENERGY This rendering shows Hydrostor's plans for the Pecho Energy Storage Center, a facility that would be located in Morro Bay if approved. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HYDROSTOR
  • Photo Courtesy Of Hydrostor
  • GENERATING ENERGY This rendering shows Hydrostor's plans for the Pecho Energy Storage Center, a facility that would be located in Morro Bay if approved.

"What we provide is a long-duration energy storage solution, and that's different from batteries, which are typically the projects that are advancing and have been brought online to date," Curt Hildebrand, senior vice president of commercial affairs at Hydrostor, told New Times. "Batteries typically provide two to four hours of energy storage, and that's great for what they're designed to do. But for an overall grid perspective from a state level, long duration is also needed to enhance the reliability of the statewide grid."

Hydrostor's compressed-air energy storage technology provides at least eight hours of full capacity energy storage, Hildebrand said. While this type of technology is already used commercially by other companies around the globe, he said Hydrostor's process is less wasteful.

"There are multi-100-megawatt facilities that are in operation today that utilize traditional compressed-air energy storage, but what those facilities need to do is burn natural gas to reheat the air when it is expanded through the generation process," Hildebrand explained. "We've tailored our design to eliminate that need to burn natural gas or any other fossil fuels."

A video on Hydrostor's YouTube page boils down its complicated technology to a four-step process. Air is compressed using surplus electricity from the grid, which generates heat that's captured in a thermal store, eliminating the need for fossil fuel use. Once that heat is extracted, the compressed air is stored and can be converted into electricity on demand.

Morro Bay City Councilmember Dawn Addis said she requested a personal briefing from Hydrostor to learn more about the proposal.

"As somebody who believes that there's a climate crisis, I'm definitely interested to see how this project progresses," Addis said. "One of the most interesting things about this is how it can increase living-wage jobs here."

As the Pecho Energy Storage Center moves through the approval process—which will require a zoning change, as it is proposed on agricultural zoned land—Addis said she'd like to see the public involved.

"Given that we're in a climate emergency, we need, and I need, to be open to ingenuity, especially ingenuity that's carbon neutral and is going to create jobs here on the Central Coast," Addis said.

Hildebrand said that the long-duration energy storage is useful for emergency situations, and can reduce the incidence of future blackouts.

"But it will, more importantly, on a day-to-day basis, smooth out the supply and demand for electricity across the state," he said.

The Pecho Energy Storage Center would interconnect at the existing PG&E Morro Bay Switching Station.

"With Diablo Canyon being retired and the Morro Bay Power Plant being retired previously, interconnection capacity is an important aspect," Hildebrand said.

The California Energy Commission will be the lead state agency for the review and approval of the project. Hydrostor will also work closely with SLO County in applying for a general plan amendment to rezone the land that the center would be constructed on.

"We do expect, given the newness of our technology, that there will be a lot of educational aspects to our permitting process, and that's great," Hildebrand said. "We look forward to sharing our technology and our project benefits and impacts with the local community, and doing what we can to earn their support." Δ

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