A team of engineers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, in partnership with Southern California Edison, has received a $1.62 million grant from the California Energy Commission to build a hybrid energy storage system that stores energy harvested from intermittently productive renewable sources such as solar panels and wind farms, then releases that energy into the grid when demand is high.

The lead investigator is Pirouz Kavehpour, UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering (MAE). Other UCLA faculty on the team are MAE faculty Richard Wirz, Adrienne Lavine and Rajit Gadh.

The energy system under development is a hybrid of compressed air energy storage and thermal energy storage technologies. Although compressed air has long been used in energy storage, this system will use a state-of-the-art, high-temperature storage unit to enhance storage capacity and economic viability. This innovative technology offers the potential for a highly efficient, ultra low-cost zero-carbon emission solution for storing intermittent renewables.

This approach stores energy at a very low cost compared to batteries and other technologies currently on the market, said Kavehpour. “Our estimated cost of energy for this unit is about $100 per kilowatt hour, which is much lower than any battery system of which we are aware.”

The technology will be built on the Cal Poly Pomona campus and will be operated in conjunction with Southern California Edison.