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Some Irvine Co. Offices To Go ‘Behind the Meter’

The Irvine Co. has signed on to a cutting-edge energy storage project that will transform nearly two dozen of its highest profile offices in the Irvine Spectrum and John Wayne Airport area into hybrid electric buildings over the next year.

The Newport Beach-based developer, Orange County’s dominant landlord, has entered into a deal with Advanced Microgrid Solutions, a San Francisco-based renewable energy company, to install energy storage systems built by Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors Inc. at a number of its area buildings.

Hybrid Electric

The installation will create the world’s first fleet of hybrid electric buildings and in effect create a “virtual power plant” that can shift energy loads off the electric grid to the stored-energy systems as needed, according to the companies involved in the deal.

“This is the biggest deal ever” of its type targeting what is described as behind-the-meter battery energy storage, said Rich Bluth, vice president of energy management at Irvine Co.

The program will allow Irvine Co. to participate in grid support and reduce its own energy costs without causing disruptions for its tenants, Bluth said.

Financial terms of the agreement were undisclosed. The first phase of installation is expected to cost Advanced Microgrid, also known as AMS, more than $30 million.

20 Pacifica, a 15-story office in the Irvine Spectrum, is slated to be the first building to get an installation, the full range of which should be completed by the end of the year.

The Tesla batteries to be installed—described as roughly the size of three parking spaces each—will be charged during nonpeak hours and used as needed, such as during peak daytime hours or in the event of a power failure.

The switchover from electric power to battery power won’t be noticeable by tenants at the building, Bluth said.

Additional buildings slated for the storage system installations over the next year include Irvine Co.’s Jamboree Center, Von Karman Towers, and the MacArthur Court office campuses.

The developer’s 200 Spectrum Center office tower being built next to the Spectrum shopping center also is included the program, as is a second office tower at 300 Spectrum Center where work could begin next year.

The Irvine Co. could save more than $1 million annually in electricity costs at the buildings to get the installations. Electricity costs at the offices, whose combined space tops 7 million square feet, could drop by 10% or more.

The first phase of the program will cut Southern California Electric’s daily electricity demand by a projected 10 megawatts, or roughly enough energy to supply power to 10,000 homes.

50 Megawatts

AMS signed a deal this summer with Belmont-based renewable energy company SunEdison Inc. to finance and deploy 50 megawatts of behind-the-meter battery energy storage to Southern California Edison. The deal with Irvine Co. is the first installation tied to that deployment and is designed to help replace energy being lost from the closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in San Clemente.

Southern Orange County “has some weak areas on the grid” after San Onofre’s closure that Southern California Edison is looking to strengthen, one reason the Irvine-area buildings were selected for the deployment, according to Bluth.

Similar installations could be done at other commercial and apartment buildings owned by Irvine Co. throughout the state, he said.

AMS builds, pays for and manages the battery systems and is in turn paid by the utilities when the systems’ stored energy is used.

The program “creates value all the way around, for building owners, customers and utilities,” said Susan Kennedy, AMS chief executive, in a statement.

Kennedy founded AMS in 2013. She previously served as chief of staff for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Gray Davis, and as communications director for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Kennedy also previously served on California’s Public Utilities Commission.

Southern California Edison in the Irvine Co. deal “is tapping into the power of their own customers’ building load to manage the grid,” Kennedy said, and deals of its type represent “the future of the electric grid.”

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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