Irvine Goes Where No CRE Company Has Gone Before

The CRE owner has made a big commitment to energy-storage technology.

By Scott Baltic, Contributing Editor

Just in time for Christmas, batteries will be included with some Southern California office buildings.

Before the end of this year, the Irvine Co., one of the leading owners of real estate in coastal California, will start to install energy-storage systems in up to 24 office buildings totaling about 6 million square feet in Irvine and Newport Beach, Calif., the company announced Monday. This will be the first phase of a portfolio-wide initiative intended to reduce peak-energy consumption from local utilities, lower the need for additional power plants, reduce electricity costs and provide back-up power during grid outages.

Irvine reportedly is the world’s first major real estate company to initiate an energy-storage program on such a scale. The company’s office portfolio alone consists of 60-some properties in California totaling nearly 40 million square feet.

Rich Bluth
Rich Bluth, Irvine Co.

Lithium-ion battery systems, each taking up the equivalent of about five parking spaces, will be charged during non-peak hours and then used, when needed, for peak daytime use or in the event of a power failure. The battery systems will be based on the Powerpack from Tesla Energy, the utility-sized sibling of the Powerwall product intended for home use.

Irvine’s partner in this venture is San Francisco–based Advanced Microgrid Solutions, which will team with SunEdison to finance, install and operate the battery systems, including invisibly switching the buildings to battery power whenever Southern California Edison signals that demand on the grid is too high.

“When needed, the batteries can be called upon to discharge, with very short notice, reducing the load on the grid, which in turn helps reduce the risk of brownouts and blackouts,” an Irvine spokesperson told Commercial Property Executive.

The first phase of Irvine’s project is expected to reduce peak demand in those buildings by 25 percent and provide SCE with up to 10 megawatts of reserve capacity, enough to power 10,000 homes.

Irvine declined to discuss the costs associated with the program, but online sources indicate that Tesla has quoted a price of $25,000 each for individual 100kwh Powerpack module. Given the initial target of 10 megawatts of storage, that would be a price tag of about $2.5 million for the batteries alone.

“As a long-term owner, the Irvine Co. takes great pride in being on the cutting edge of building design, sustainability and energy efficiency,” Rich Bluth, Irvine’s vice president of energy management, said in a prepared statement. “Energy storage is a game-changer. It will allow building owners to participate in grid support and reduce costs while causing no disruption or discomfort to our customers, residents or guests.”

Stored-energy initiatives are part of Southern California Edison’s grid-modernization plan, which was rolled out last November. The utility committed to buy “hundreds of megawatts of distributed solar, behind-the-meter batteries, automated demand response and targeted energy efficiency” as part of its 2,200-megawatt Local Capacity Requirement procurement for its West Los Angeles Basin region, where the electrical grid is stressed.

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