Giant lithium-ion

The lithium-ion battery plant would be located on 3.1 acres in northwest Gilbert.

Plus Power is proposing to build a standalone lithium-ion battery storage facility on 3.1 acres in the northwest corner of Gilbert that can stockpile enough electricity to power over 30,000 homes.

The American-owned company, with offices in Texas and California, pitched the Superstition Energy Storage project at a neighborhood meeting Aug. 17 that was attended by four residents, who did not ask any questions after the short presentation.

“This will help provide reliability to the power grid,” said Molly Emerson, lead project developer. “It’s like a pacemaker for the grid.”

She said the company, formed in 2018, has over 7 gigawatts of projects under development – 1 gigawatt is enough to power about 750,000 homes.

The 90 megawatt/ 360 megawatt-hour facility planned for Gilbert would hook up to the Salt River Project electrical grid.

The site, at 510 N. Ithica Street near Commerce Avenue, is zoned for general industrial uses and is next to SRP’s Corbell Substation. The planned location is surrounded by industrial and utility uses.

“The zoning already exists to allow us to put in a large-scale utility facility,” said land-use attorney Adam Baugh, who added that the company was seeking a special use permit from the town, which can impose conditions.

Baugh said the facility is essentially an outdoor storage of enclosed battery packs that would charge from the grid during times with excess energy and discharge during periods of high-demand.

The 9-foot-tall cabinets or enclosures are modular and removable, assembled and tested offsite and brought on location for installation on concrete pad foundations, according to Baugh.

The project also includes the construction of a roughly 440-foot-long, 230-kilovolt power line that would connect the facility to the SRP substation.

The facility would be screened by an 8-foot-tall masonry wall and landscaping.

Baugh also touted the project’s positives – very little if any emissions, no traffic and no operational water use or light pollution.

And, the project would create approximately 30 to 40 high-paying construction jobs for 12 months and two to three fulltime permanent positions, Baugh said.

The project also would generate property tax revenue for Gilbert, he said, adding that most importantly the facility would operate for SRP for 20 years.

At the end of the facility’s operating life, Plus Power would remove the battery system and restore the land to pre-existing conditions. And because the battery components contain valuable minerals, the system would be shipped away for recycling and salvage value, the company said.

“This is a very clean facility,” Baugh said. “Everything is enclosed inside in a cabinet.”

Emerson also emphasized that Plus Power “takes safety very seriously” but didn’t go into detail on it.

A fire broke out at a lithium battery storage facility in Chandler in April. Another company owned that facility, which generated power for SRP.

According to Plus Power, the Superstition facility would use “best-in class lithium-ion cells based on battery chemistries similar to those used in cell phones, computers, and electric vehicles.”

Additionally, the system would use a variety of thermal management systems as well as remote monitoring strategies to maintain system stability, the company said.

It added that Gilbert Fire would be fully engaged in design discussions as part of the special use permit application and that first responders would receive training on proper techniques to use in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Baugh said the next step is to file the special use permit application and anticipated going before the Planning Commission for consideration in a public hearing sometime in the fall. The permit does not need to go to Town Council.

If the permit is approved, Plus Power expects to begin construction in 2023 and complete the facility in 2024.

Plus Power also needs a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The company anticipated submitting an application for that in September and having a decision issued by the commission during an open meeting in December.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the cost of installing and operating battery energy storage systems or BESS have been dropping in recent years leading to an increased use of that technology.

An additional 10,000 megawatts of large-scale battery storage’s ability to contribute electricity to the grid is likely to be installed between 2021 and 2023 in the United States —10 times the total amount of maximum generation capacity by all systems in 2019, according to a 2021 report by the federal agency.

For more information about the Superstition project, go to superstitionenergystorage.com/community