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'Wave of the future:' Oxnard battery storage system up and running

A 100-megawatt battery storage system in Oxnard set to power tens of thousands of homes and businesses for hours "will be the wave of the future."

"This is the solution," said John Breckenridge, a senior managing director of system owner Capital Dynamics, of the state's energy challenges.

"We are building many of these throughout California, and we're very hopeful that is going to address the problems in the power grid without putting new thermal fossil burning plants which are contributing to the problem online," he said during the plant's unveiling Tuesday.

The battery storage system uses Tesla equipment and can power Oxnard for four hours and Ventura County for 30 minutes, Breckenridge said.

"The main thing is they provide this insurance policy against these extreme weather events that are more and more common," said Breckenridge, who is head of Capital Dynamic's clean energy infrastructure business. "That's why, in our view, these are really important for Californians."

Battery storage works by capturing the energy during the day when the power grid is dominated by solar and other renewable sources and releases it later to ensure grid reliability.

The storage systems provide energy to the grid when wind and solar are unavailable, said Mike Gravely, team lead and senior electrical engineer conducting energy research for the California Energy Commission.

The Tesla Megapack system covers roughly half of six acres of an industrial park, said Arturo Hernandez-Mendez, senior project manager for Arevon, the energy affiliate for Capital Dynamics. He said the system measures 25-feet long, 4-feet wide and 9-feet high.

It also appears to be one of the first battery storage projects permitted and constructed in Ventura County.

"Against many odds, we have this fantastic modern facility, which is going to help us do our part to combat climate change," Ramirez said.

Zaragoza said the plant would generate millions of dollars in tax revenues for the city and Ventura County.

"This is going to really help us tremendously," Zaragoza said.

Officials toured the facility following a ceremony and walked through rows of storage systems that look like white lockers.

Breckenridge said North Carolina-based Strata Solar was responsible for the early stage development of the project before the company was sold to management firm Capital Dynamics in May 2020.

Will Mitchell, vice president of business development for Strata Solar, said on Tuesday his company had developed the project for seven months before selling it in May 2020. 

"This was a first-time project for the county," Mitchell said of the process. "They were really open and receptive to having us but also asked really hard questions as they should."

Mitchell said the local community was responsible for the project, formerly known as Ventura Energy Storage and now known as Saticoy Energy Storage Site.

"They're the ones that did not want the natural gas power plant," Mitchell said. "They wanted clean energy and the fact that Strata can make that a reality is something we're incredibly proud of." 

Mitchell referred to a proposal for a new, gas-fired power plant that Oxnard residents strongly opposed before it was eventually jettisoned. NRG Energy Inc. proposed the plant six years ago to replace the aging facilities at the Mandalay Generating Station on the Oxnard coast. The Mandalay station is no longer in operation.

Unlike a power plant, the new battery storage system will make little noise except a dull buzz of a fan, Breckenridge said.

"It's all electronics," Breckenridge said. "No machinery."  

Gravely said the construction of battery storage systems has increased in the last two years and "there is a lot" more projected in the next 10 to 20 years. 

"Energy storage is a big part of the future of California," Gravely said.