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400 megawatt battery proposed for LIPA

A 20-megawatt battery currently operating in Johnson City,

A 20-megawatt battery currently operating in Johnson City, NY. Credit: AES Energy Storage, LLC

Energizer Bunny, step aside.

A Virginia-based company is proposing to build the country's largest battery -- one capable of storing as much energy as a large power plant -- on Long Island in response to LIPA's bid to upgrade local power sources.

AES Energy Storage, based in Arlington, said it has submitted a proposal to build a bank of batteries capable of storing 400 megawatts of power for Long Island -- enough to power tens of thousands of homes.

If LIPA approves it, it would eliminate the need to build another plant or lay an undersea cable. The lithium-based batteries would recharge using existing power plants or cables, powering up at night when the cost is cheapest.

Power would come from the most efficient and lowest-cost sources such as Caithness power plant or Neptune Cable while they are idle. The batteries would then offer the cheap power to fill peak daylight demands, AES executives said.

The 400-megawatt battery would release no emissions, other than the clean energy used for recharging, and could be distributed around the Island to help reduce peaks in heavy "load pockets" of energy use. "This could be more valuable in multiple locations," said John Zahurancik, AES' vice president for deployment and operations.

The cost would be competitive with existing power plants, he said. The company operates a 20-megawatt battery in upstate Johnson City and a 32-megawatt system in West Virginia. If LIPA accepts AES' bid, it would be running by 2016.

LIPA is fielding 45 bids after a request for proposals for 2,500 megawatts of power, as the contract for 17 plants owned by National Grid, generating about 4,000 megawatts, ends in 2013. Sixteen different companies submitted proposals that include cables, plants and even a large offshore wind-energy platform.

A LIPA spokeswoman declined to comment.

Battery storage is gaining favor in an increasingly renewable world. Last year, Mexico announced a contract with a Dubai-based company to install a 1,000-megawatt energy storage system. Six years ago, Fairbanks, Alaska, paid about $35 million to a Swiss company for a 40-megawatt battery.

AES declined to say how much the LIPA battery would cost, but assuming a cost of around $1 million a megawatt, it would be around $400 million, excluding the cost of power to recharge the batteries.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a green energy advocate, said LIPA is eventually going to require storage capacity like AES' as more renewable energy sources, like solar and wind come on line.

"It's something that's very much needed," he said, noting that intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar need a place to store their energy when not needed on the grid. It also helps provide backup when renewable sources aren't available, such as solar at night or during heavy storms. The 400-megawatt capacity, he noted, "is a good chunk. . . . It's certainly something LIPA should consider."

The recyclable batteries are sealed in leakproof containers and don't require venting like typical lead-acid batteries used in cars.

AES expects the batteries to occupy 6 to 20 acres of land and either be "containerized systems with perimeter privacy fencing or industrial-park type buildings." The proposed location, or multiple locations, haven't been set.

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