Tesla lithium-ion batteries are being installed at the Gulf Power McCrary Storm and Training Center in Pensacola as part of a Southern Company-led battery energy storage demonstration project.

Gulf Power’s McCrary Storm and Training Center on Pine Forest Road in Pensacola is the site of a new Southern Company research and development project: an energy storage system designed to help industrial and commercial customers store and use energy on demand while improving resiliency. In the future, systems like these are projected to save customers money.

Construction began this spring on the McCrary Battery Energy Storage Demonstration, a 250 kilowatt/1 megawatt-hour Tesla Powerpack lithium-ion industrial energy storage system. The project will help accelerate the companies’ understanding of siting, installation and operational requirements of industrial-scale storage systems, as well as the value that battery storage can create for customers and the energy provider.

With the new McCrary Center energy storage project, Gulf Power and its parent company,  Southern Company are taking a crucial step forward in the research, development and deployment of rapidly emerging energy storage technologies that create better ways to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable power to customers.

Gulf Power engineers and contractors are getting valuable hands-on experience working on this two-year research and development project aimed at allowing industrial customers to store and use energy on demand.

“Solar energy can be stored in a battery system and used on demand as a 24/7 energy source,” said Kimberly Blair, Gulf Power spokesperson. “And any source of energy can also be used to charge a battery system. A customer can reduce their energy demand by charging during off-peak energy usage times and using the battery during the peak energy usage times.”

The system can also provide resiliency as a backup energy source.

Gulf Power engineers and technical staff are working jointly with Southern Company’s research and development team and local contractors to refine industry standards and best practices for the interconnection requirements of the storage systems. The research is being done in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute’s Integrated Grid Initiative.

During the two-year testing period, Gulf Power employees will get hands-on experience and become experts in this emerging technology that engineers and researchers across the country are rushing to workout.

Another aspect of this research and development project is a cost-benefits analysis of the system –– upfront costs versus the payback –– which will provide information on the potential value of the technology for Gulf Power and its customers.

“The goal of this demonstration is to help us provide commercial and industrial customers a blueprint for adding energy storage on their own site in the future, so they can have more control over reducing energy usage during peak energy times and store and use energy on demand to, potentially, reduce their energy bill,” said Blair.

There are benefits the technology can provide Gulf Power, as well.

The McCrary Center was selected to be Gulf Power’s first commercial-scale battery storage research and development project.

“Energy storage can improve operational flexibility. For example, when we see a peak usage time approaching, we could send out a message to these customers who have these systems to shift their energy demand by dispatching their batteries,” Blair said. “That would save them money and help us avoid starting up peaking units at our plants. This would help us operate our plants more efficiently.”

The system is being designed to be modular and expandable without changing the interconnections, a feature that would help future users save money if they need this capability. Testing of the equipment will begin immediately after a formal commissioning ceremony in mid-summer.

According to Blair, Gulf Power is dedicated to staying on the forefront of energy technology that can help customers optimize their businesses and save money.

“The Southern Company energy storage research demonstrations were established to provide a technical foundation for future electric grid integration and use,” she said. “The company has long viewed the development of efficient, economic energy storage as a potential game-changer for renewables. In addition, this technology can result in increased reliability and reduced prices for customers.”