Can Batteries Bolster Texas Grid?

June 19, 2021

Utility Dive:

  • As the grid operator for most of Texas warns of a high-demand summer that could strain electricity supply, a new analysis finds that the state is one of the country’s top markets for new energy storage development. 
  • An S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis finds that Texas could have as much as 1,400 MW of battery storage available by September of this year, eight times more than was online the year before. 
  • That storage capacity could help improve reliability ahead of a summer with unusually high demand. Already, ERCOT asked residents to conserve electricity this week during a heat wave because of tight grid conditions.

The challenges of the Texas grid were on display in February when a winter storm led to the loss of almost half of ERCOT’s generation, leaving millions without power for days. In May, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) warned that Texas faces an “elevated risk” of energy emergencies this summer due to high heat or potential long periods of low wind production. Although ERCOT itself said that it expects to have sufficient generation to meet peak loads, it did outline three “extreme” scenarios that could lead to blackouts, including extended hot weather that spikes demand, thermal generator outages or a shortage in generation from wind and solar.

The grid operator is expecting record-breaking demand this summer, but ERCOT had a 15.7% reserve margin, slightly below preferred levels, at the beginning of the summer. 

Although the grid set a June record for electricity demand on Monday with 69,943 MW, ERCOT says the reliability of the grid remains strong

“One of the pretty clear lessons learned from Texas’ power challenges this year is that renewable power is outperforming other forms of generation when the grid is under stress,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. 

According to S&P, there are nearly a dozen storage projects ranging from 50 MW to larger than 200 MW scheduled to start up this summer, headlined by the 203 MW Crossett Power Battery Storage system in Crane County. ERCOT expects that battery storage on the system could rise from 225 MW at the end of 2020 to 1,771 MW at the end of 2021 and 3,008 MW in 2022. Developers have announced large-scale projects expected to come online in 2022, like a pair of 100 MW battery storage facilities announced by Wärtsilä Energy a month after the February cold snap. 

North Carolina-based FlexGen is one of the largest storage installers in the state, claiming to be responsible for more than three-quarters of the storage there by megawatts. Yann Brandt, FlexGen Chief Financial Officer, said ERCOT’s market is attractive for developers looking to engage in energy arbitrage, but value of storage as an ancillary resource has risen as Texas faces more extreme weather events. 

“It’s a unique situation where you’re able to maximize revenue when the market needs it because you’re providing a valuable service,” Brandt said. “I hope grid operators and planners start viewing energy storage as part of the planning process and not try to plug it into a generation-first power market.”

S&P Global:

If the plans of developers and utilities pan out, total installed utility-scale energy storage capacity in the U.S., not including conventional pumped hydroelectric storage, could jump roughly 185%, to 5,582 MW, through August from a year prior, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

This summer’s storage surge, consisting mostly of four-hour lithium-ion battery systems designed to discharge during critical periods of peak demand, is centered in California and Texas, the country’s two largest states by population and economic output, respectively.

Along with market reforms, improved planning and energy conservation, these large storage systems could help both states, which have arguably the nation’s most fragile electric systems, ride through the summer turbulence with few of the sorts of widespread outages that have plagued them in the past 12 months. 

California, which in recent years has struggled with blackouts related to wildfires, in August 2020 experienced two rounds of rotating outages amid a regional heatwave. Now the California ISO, the state’s primary transmission grid operator, is battling with other southwestern states also thin on reserves over access to resources needed to keep the lights on this summer.

Texas, meanwhile, saw its primary power grid, managed by the Electric Reliability Council Of Texas Inc., severely buckle under the weight of a rare Arctic blast in February, leaving millions of residents without electricity for days. The state could be in for another rocky ride this summer, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said in its summer 2021 assessment.

California could have more than 2,800 MW of largely four-hour lithium-ion battery storage at its disposal before September, nearly five times as much as a year before, while Texas could have about 1,400 MW, roughly eight times more, S&P Global data show. Combined, the two states account for three-quarters of the total installed nonhydro energy storage resources slated to come online by the end of August.


15 Responses to “Can Batteries Bolster Texas Grid?”

  1. That guy in the first video is a moronic apologist for unreliable wind and solar. At 40 seconds in he says baseload is the least valuable and least useful form of power. WTF is he smoking? He says the most valuable is what can be immediately turned on and off like batteries. He’s mistaking value for expensiveness! The most valuable thing that can be turned on and off is gas, which is why it represents the largest fraction of the grid. Batteries are not going to replace gas soon and there’s no prospects for them ever doing so. This clown’s likely getting a bunch of hefty consulting fees using all the right sophistry and buzzwords telling a bunch of clueless bureaucrats what they want to hear.

    • John Oneill Says:

      The most valuable is hydro, which unlike wind and solar, comes with storage built in, and can be turned on and off in a jiffy. Unfortunately for Texas, they don’t have much of that – about !% of generation – and if they did, it wouldn’t last long in !00F summers, when they’re short of both power and water.
      Describing a power source that stops all the time, when you really need it to keep going, as ‘flexible’, is like calling your ornery mule ‘free-spirited’.
      And saying that solar and wind are going to be so cheap, that you can build about four or five times the maximum demand, to reduce the amount of storage you’ll need (which will also be really cheap)…

      • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

        Building four or five times power, that depends on the weather, will not help much unless the extra is far far away. Five times wind towers produce the same as one times when there is no wind, as in zero power. Likewise solar of course. Build lots, just be aware they can not do it alone.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          Yes, neither wind with no storage, distribution, or demand response, or solar with no storage, distribution, or demand response can do the job alone. Nor can nukes, or coal, or gas peakers, and then there’s that annoying global climate catastrophe thing. That’s why the studiously ineducable trolls here–Oneill, canman, Jensen-Schmidt… keep refusing to understand or admit that there IS storage, distribution, and demand response, as well as CSP, geothermal, hydro, some tidal and biomass.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Some people endeavour to save the world by workable methods. Others are driven by personal ideology.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Yes, Brent,
            It’s a shame you’re compelled to do that and then use a no true Scotsman argument against people who aren’t, when you have no rational arguments. Numerous studies and dozens of countries show we can provide all the energy the world needs with clean safe renewable energy, and do it quickly and end up with energy that costs less than we spend on energy now. Simple economics, experience, and sanity reveal we can’t do it with nukes, and trying will reduce our chances of succeeding with efficiency, wiser lives, and clean safe renewable energy.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Your preferred solution would be loverely jayfor.

      • J4Zonian Says:

        So tired of Oneill’s constant lies in service of psychopaths.

        Turns out “in a jiffy” is so vague (intentionally, I presume) because hydro is actually changeable in minutes at best, while batteries and solar are adjustable in milliseconds, and aggregate wind power is almost infinitely (incrementally) adjustable in seconds.

        I know of no one credible who has said anything about building 4 or 5 times more clean safe renewable power generation than is needed. I don’t even know of anyone with NO credibility who says it except Oneill. The only system I know of that’s so wasteful is the system that has inflexible coal and nuke generation backed up by gas that most of the time is doing absolutely nothing except producing pollution, GHGs (through leaks, idling, fuel transport & processing, etc.) and using up money. In fact, it turns out nukes like the just-closed Pilgrim use more gas back up than the wind power that will replace it.

        Turns out wind + solar + storage is already cheaper than nukes or coal, cheaper than gas many places, and will soon be cheaper than all of them everywhere. And offshore wind now has a marginal capacity factor higher (and still going up) than coal or gas (both falling).

        • John Oneill Says:

          ‘I know of no one credible who has said anything about building 4 or 5 times more clean safe renewable power generation than is needed.’
          Well, the Solutions Project, associated with Mark Jacobson and Mark Ruffalo, calls for New Zealand to build 21.8GW of wind and 30GW of solar, plus one extra GW of geothermal ( we already have about one ), and 0.61 of wave and tidal. Hydro would stay at 5.3GW. It’s winter at the moment, usually our period of highest demand, and peak use today was below 7GW.
          This article from Finland discusses the Solutions recipe for that country -‘As a backbone of our energy system Mark Jacobson and his accomplices grant Finland 29 GW capacity of onshore windpower, 27 GW offshore, and almost 50 GW of photovoltaics. For reference notice that our maximum electricity demand is around 14GW in the winter and 9 GW in the summer. Total energy consumption is somewhat less than 400 TWh. In size we are about 1% of EU which has around 90GW of photovoltaics installed. So according to Mark on a windy sunny day production could be more than 10 times our demand and around 7 times the maximum (winter) demand. Our installed PV capacity would be comparable to whole PV capacity in EU today which has, after all, spent around 10 years constructing it.’
          This article from PV Magazine calls for 4X solar overbuild, on the grounds that it’s cheaper to curtail solar than build storage.-
          Grids managed fine with hydro for load following for a century, and in most places still do. Having hundreds of tonnes of generator rotor and turbine sets spinning at 90 rpm gives enough inertia to keep the grid from wandering too far from its 50 or 60 beats a minute, till extra flow can be dialled in. The generators in coal, gas and nuclear plants do the same job. Wind and solar plants don’t have the same feature, which is why batteries’ fast response is needed. ( High Voltage Direct Current power lines also lack this metronome – the underwater cable bringing power from the South Island to the North Island has three generator transformers to reconvert the power to alternating current.)
          Like to give a reference for Pilgrim needing more gas back-up than wind ?

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        A stray thought about calculating the “efficiency” of pumped hydro: Heavy rain increases measured efficiency and hot dry conditions reduces it.

        (Of course others have to have noticed it, but it only just occurred to me.)

    • I did a little research on Josh Pearce. He actually teaches at the college I went to. He’s apparently done some impressive work on 3D printing, although it looks a bit over-hyped. He appears to be one of those smart guys who are completely delusional over solar energy just like Mark Jacobson or Elon Musk. He seems to have a knack for getting noticed. He’ll probably do well in the Biden era.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        Elon Musk’s primary “delusion” over solar energy is that home solar+storage (power wall) can reduce a home’s long-term energy cost by reducing the amount of time you pay grid rates (also protecting you from occasional rolling blackouts or downed trees). By reducing total power sucked out of the grid, it automatically reduces the need for “single-use” fossil fuel to generate power. Furthermore, if much of the country is clouded over, grid-managers can buy power at higher rates from those who have stored or solar power (household or community). Savvy people will even reduce their own use during that time because they make money off of selling it.

        The point of PV solar is that it can “suck energy out of the sky” very cheaply, which can be used immediately or be poured into a bucket. There are some applications (background charging of device batteries) for which the intermittency is a non-issue, but the removing the need for wiring is a major savings.

        So solar it isn’t all about large power plants on the grids, but about taking advantage of the fact that energy from our favorite fusion reactor is practically free, and therefore makes storage more cost-effective.

        • ” but the removing the need for wiring is a major savings.”

          What “removing the need for wiring”? Unless you’re going completely off grid, you’re still hooked up to the same wiring. Since solar panels sprawl all over the place, they need more wiring.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Just like the conceptual change in computing power at the end of the last century, the power industry is undergoing huge change. Batteries have a big part to play, and certainly they have transformed parts of Australia. Baseload power plants, such as coal and gas are no longer welcomed because of their GHG emissions, yes we still have the nuclear option available, in certain geographical parts of the world with adequate cooling and stable environments, but it is expensive.

    Batteries boom in Australia as renewable investments decline.

    “Big batteries

    Investment in batteries also makes sense, Torgoman said, because they offer a number of benefits. These include securing the stability of the grid, while allowing the deferral of capital investment in major grid upgrades. At this point in time, batteries also offer longer asset lives than before, and pricing is more attractive now. Torgoman said it’s become “good business to consider whether upgrading a power line or a substation can be dealt with more effectively with a battery.”

    Battery energy storage also allows the time-shifting of excess renewable generation at certain times of day into low-generation, but high-demand periods.”

    Some countries are really thinking outside the box and coming up with flexible new services, and (just like the massive computing change of the 20th century) it is good to witness the energy revolution in progress.

    “Norway and UK complete world’s longest underwater sea cable

    “When the wind blows in England and wind power production is high, we in
    Norway will be able to buy cheap electricity from the British and leave the water in our dam reservoirs,” said Statnett’s project manager Thor Anders Nummedal.

    “When there is little wind and a greater need for electricity in England, they will in turn be able to buy hydroelectric power from us,” he said in a statement.

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