Oakland to Swap Jet Fuel-Burning Peaker Plant for Urban Battery

Greentech Media

OAKLAND, Calif. — Jack London Square reminds a visitor of Oakland’s nautical roots. Seagulls squawk, ships bob in the harbor, commuters rush out of cars or wheel their bikes to the ferry terminal to embark across the San Francisco Bay. Up the wharf, shipping cranes tower over the proposed site of the future Oakland A’s baseball stadium.

In the foreground, a combustion turbine peaker plant sits across the street from the ferry launch, behind an immense ochre-colored vat of the jet fuel that it combusts.

“The plant that’s sitting there has been there for a long time, and it’s been the bane of many West Oakland folks because it is a significant contributor to air pollution here,” said State Senator Nancy Skinner, adding that residents there face higher rates of asthma.

Now the residents who want the plant gone have a new ally: East Bay Community Energy, the locally governed entity that buys power for Alameda County. This community choice aggregator launched in 2018 with a mandate to buy cleaner power than utility PG&E while keeping prices affordable and promoting well-paying jobs.

On Monday morning, EBCE staff arrived at the wharf alongside Skinner, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other local leaders to sign a set of contracts for clean energy. One of those contracts would rip out the old turbines and replace them with a 20 megawatt, 80 megawatt-hour lithium-ion battery system to meet demand in this pocket of the city without releasing local particulate pollution or greenhouse gases (although it will charge from the grid, resulting in emissions elsewhere).

The project blends several cutting-edge grid trends at once.

It shuts down fossil fuel infrastructure in favor of new cleantech alternatives, serving California’s grid decarbonization law. It also fills a grid reliability need that traditionally would have required more invasive and capital intensive infrastructure, offering yet another example of the non-wires alternative philosophy.

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