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As the iconic metallic cube comes into view along Interstate 5, it marks the home of the Discovery Cube OC, an innovative science center visited by 1,000 kids each day for the past 15 years.   

To meet its growing needs, the center will be doubling its exhibit space and its visitor capacity to 1 million. And the changes are not only physical. The expansion will provide even more hands-on educational programs, including a new emphasis on environmental stewardship.

The importance of protecting the environment is reflected in the center’s new electric battery energy storage system (BESS) developed with Southern California Edison (SCE) and funded by the utility. BESS will allow the nonprofit to save money and provide a platform to educate students.

“This project not only helps us conserve financial resources, which is very important to a nonprofit, but allows us to practice what we teach,” said Kellee Preston, vice president of operations for Discovery Cube OC. “We are dedicating 14,000 square feet of space to teaching and showing students how they can conserve resources and protect the environment in their daily lives — and energy monitoring and efficiency are important concepts that this project can help us highlight.”

Using less energy during times of high-user demand means less energy has to be produced to feed the state’s grid. This can result in using less fuel to produce electricity; burning less fuel results in producing fewer carbon emissions.

During peak periods of consumption, electricity prices are at their highest, so any reduction in power taken from the grid at that time can result in savings. The BESS, which is expected to last a decade, can be used to store power when it is less costly, namely late at night. It can then be used to provide power during peak demand, such as on hot afternoons when air conditioning uses a great deal of power.

“We are very happy to have the opportunity to work with the Discovery Cube OC,” said Charles J. Kim, a senior engineer with SCE. “Not only does changing the way they use power result in them saving money, it also provides a benefit to the grid by permanently reducing the demand on local circuits and reducing overall demand on the system during peak usage periods.”

The 100 kilowatt and 500 kilowatt-hour BESS will allow the facility to permanently shift the way it uses power, as well as providing 2-3 hours of backup power for use in case of emergencies. The system is already installed and integrated into the building’s electric system.

The project will also let SCE study, in conjunction with the facility, the efficacy of BESS to provide this type of permanent load shift, as well as furthering the utility’s commitment to STEM education (science, technology, engineering or math) and environmental responsibility.

“We are teaching the young kids and students that visit the facility, or who engage with our programming in the classroom, that they too can help reduce carbon emissions with the choices they make in their daily life,” said Preston. “This innovative effort allows us to teach by example and helps make the connection between everyday choices in how we all use energy and preserving the environment.”