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A123 supplies giant battery for 'hybrid power plant'

Power generation company AES to install 20 megawatts worth of batteries for "spinning reserve" in Chile, one of the largest battery projects to ensure grid reliability.

A123 Systems batteries supply up to 12 megawatts of power at the Los Andes substation in Chile.
A123 Systems batteries supply up to 12 megawatts of power at the Los Andes substation in Chile. A123 Systems

Lithium ion battery company A123 Systems today said that it will supply a 20-megawatt battery for grid storage in northern Chile, one of the larger projects to use batteries to fortify the grid.

AES Gener, a division of U.S.-based power generation company AES, will install 10 shipping container-size storage systems in northern Chile to work in conjunction with a new 500-megawatt power plant called Angamos.

The batteries will be used for "spinning reserves" to ensure grid reliability by filling gaps in power in that area, which needs a reliable supply of electricity for mining operations. The system is designed to supply its full power for 15 minutes.

The project follows a similar 12-megawatt battery installation AES did in Chile in 2009 with A123 Systems' products for frequency regulation. Rather than ramp up power production from natural gas plants to maintain a steady frequency, the grid draws on the batteries' storage for quick bursts of power.

Energy storage on the grid has been done for decades in the form of pumped hydro plants, but different types of storage, such as batteries and flywheels, are starting to take hold in the U.S. Batteries now are mainly used to improve reliability with short-term storage, but some projects are seeking longer-term storage coupled with wind and solar farms.

Lithium ion battery companies are targeting hybrid and electric vehicles, but grid storage is another important, if smaller, market. A123 Systems, which will supply batteries for Fisker's Karma plug-in hybrid, said it has sold 35 megawatts worth of grid storage.