Charging Up a Brighter Future of Clean Energy



The EnerSmart battery storage facility in Chula Vista smooths our transition to a greener electric grid.

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are vital for reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. However, as critics like to point out, the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. Their intermittent nature poses challenges for grid stability and reliability. What’s more, in California we often produce more renewable energy than we can use, so we “curtail” production, essentially dumping excess electricity. Energy storage could help solve these problems — and a San Diego–based company is deploying a cutting-edge battery energy storage system.

This project not only stores excess renewable energy, but enhances grid reliability for residents and businesses in Chula Vista to reduce the risk of blackouts during heat waves and other events when the electrical system is strained.

EnerSmart Storage is investing in solutions to support California’s clean energy transition. Formed in 2019, EnerSmart is run by co-founders James Beach and Marc La Magna. They currently have eight storage projects, totaling 125 megawatts, in various stages of development and operation in San Diego County. 

The latest 6-megawatt project in Chula Vista began operating in August 2023 and can power nearly 3,000 homes while it’s sending energy to the grid. Storage systems like this can provide significant benefits to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the entity responsible for managing California's electric transmission system. This project not only stores excess renewable energy, but enhances grid reliability for residents and businesses in Chula Vista to reduce the risk of blackouts during heat waves and other events when the electrical system is strained.

When demand for electricity surpasses the capacity, it creates imbalances that if left unaddressed for even a few seconds, can lead to blackouts. Battery storage can relieve strain on the state’s power system and reduce the chances of blackouts. It also supports California’s goal of 90% clean energy by 2035, and carbon neutrality no later than 2045. 

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“It’s use it or lose it in the power system,” co-founder Marc La Magna told the Star-News. “If you do not use power coming from renewables right away, it is wasted. The batteries are there to take advantage of that. They charge during those periods, so they can release during periods of higher demand. This does what is called load shifting, so you take all that power that you have lost, take it, recharge it, and release it. Over time, the prices are going to start going down even as there are more renewables in the system. That is why it is so important.”

Other projects in the works include Alpine, Ramona, El Cajon, La Mesa, Spring Valley, Imperial Beach, Mesa Heights, and Carlsbad. La Mesa is scheduled to go live next and will be three times the size of the Chula Vista facility. All are privately funded and owned, and for now have no impact on utility rates.

EnerSmart has plans to expand to Northern California, according to co-founder James Beach, but wants to get San Diego projects up and running first. Beach told CBS 8, “San Diego has the most expensive power in the country, so it was one of the best places for battery storage projects.”

The Chula Vista project sits in an unassuming formerly vacant lot on a busy commercial stretch of eastern Main Street by the 805, and connects to a nearby SDG&E substation underground. It’s fenced off, and controlled and monitored remotely, so it creates no traffic. The six battery units in the facility emit a faint hum during operation (much fainter than passing traffic), and are composed of lithium ion phosphate batteries of the type used in school buses.

As we generate more electricity from wind and solar, energy storage solutions like EnerSmart will become indispensable. Battery storage can also reduce the need for additional transmission lines. By efficiently storing and utilizing renewable energy, EnerSmart provides a more resilient, sustainable, and cost-effective energy system. California has about 6.6 gigawatts of battery storage in total, and on two recent evenings, battery storage was the leading source of power to the California grid for the first time ever. So, energy storage solutions are starting to have an impact.

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Kelli Schry
Kelli Schry
Born and raised in San Diego, Kelli Schry has more than 15 years of experience in public relations, writing, and content development. Her work has been featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, the New York Times, the LA Times, CNN Money, the Washington Post, and more. Her passions include travel, food and wine, animals, and conservation. When she isn’t writing, she can be found exploring sunny San Diego with her husband and two kids.
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