US retail giant Walmart looks to behind the meter energy storage

Walmart is to install Advanced Microgrid Solutions’ Hybrid Electric Building technology.

Behind the meter energy storage that is integrated into the grid can serve a dual purpose in optimising the energy use within a building as well as serving as a resource for support of the local grid.

The US energy management startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions is going a step further, not only providing the storage system in the form of its Hybrid Electric Building technology but also integrating building portfolios with storage into ‘fleets’, which can then be operated as a single resource.

The company’s first contract, back in 2014, was with Southern California Edison (SCE), to provide 50MW as part of a 261MW storage procurement to meet local reliability needs due primarily to the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Subsequently AMS has picked up other projects in North America, amounting to more than 120MW of energy storage under contract, including 90MW/360MWh of grid support in capacity-constrained areas in southern California, and the development of a multi-utility microgrid in Canada.

In July last year Macquarie Capital provided AMS with $200m for the development of storage projects with its technology.

The following month Macquarie Capital acquired the SCE project from AMS and coupled with the recent closing of non-recourse project financing for the project with CIT Bank, is indicative of the investor interest in the technology and in energy storage in general.

"As an active developer in infrastructure assets globally, Macquarie believes there is tremendous opportunity for this [battery storage infrastructure] asset class,” commented Nick Butcher, Global Head of Infrastructure.

Walmart and behind the meter energy storage

The latest company to look to AMS’s storage technology is the US retail giant Walmart, which intends to install it in “select stores” in the US. In the first phase, AMS will install 40MWh at 27 Walmart stores in Southern California.

These energy storage systems will allow Walmart to reduce costs by permanently reducing each store’s peak electricity demand while providing dispatchable grid support to SCE. And there will be no upfront cost to Walmart with the financing, along with the “design, installation and operation” by AMS.

“Cost efficiency is the hallmark of the Walmart brand,” says Mark Vanderhelm, VP Energy for Walmart. “Adding energy storage capabilities to our clean energy resources reduces the capacity needed from the grid and is part of our commitment to increase reliance on renewable energy.”

Solar leader

Over the past decade, Walmart has become a leader in the corporate move to sustainability and has installed onsite generation, including solar PV, at 350 of its stores. As of fiscal year end 2016, approximately 25% of Walmart’s operations globally were powered by renewables and the company’s aim is to achieve a level of 50% by 2025 and ultimately to become 100% renewable powered.

Walmart also has initiated earlier storage projects and among these in 2014 a pilot was launched with Solar City with a pair of 9kW batteries and 11 30kW batteries linked to onsite solar PV installations at 13 stores in California.

The company’s latest project just launched, Project Gigaton, aims to achieve with the assistance of suppliers the elimination of 1Gt of carbon emissions by 2030. Energy, along with agriculture, waste, packaging and deforestation, are the goal areas and the focus is on aspects such as manufacturing, materials and use of products.

AMS’s statement on the Walmart project doesn’t name the storage technology but it is most likely to be Tesla’s Powerpack following a 2015 agreement to install up to 500MWh of Tesla batteries in storage projects.

In June 2016, AMS committed to installing 500MWh of grid-scale energy storage in the US by 2020.

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