How does Texas store excess electricity?
As reported on Texas Electricity Ratings in November, Luminant’s utility scale battery in West Texas was set to begin operation by the end of 2018. The project made its deadline just barely coming online December 31.
This 10 megawatt storage facility is the largest of its kind in Texas and the seventh largest in the US. The storage facility sits adjacent to Luminant’s 180 megawatt Upton 2 Solar Power Plant in Upton County. Solar energy harvested during the day can be saved in the battery for distribution in the late afternoon and early evening of the same day the energy is collected.
It wasn’t long ago when solar energy had to be consumed as it was harvested. While this storage time doesn’t last long, it represents a huge leap forward in the application of solar technology. In the future, this might translate into cheaper Texas electricity.
What is on the horizon for utility scale batteries?
Energy industry experts expect big things for utility scale batteries in the near future. Speaking at the fifth annual Energy Storage Summit in San Francisco, industry leader Ravi Manghani predicted utility-scale energy storage installations will increase in 2019. He attributes this to falling prices for solar panels and battery storage systems combined with tax credits.
The longer solar farmers can store excess electricity, the better for consumers. Using the sun’s daytime rays to power homes at night is a win-win for the energy industry and consumers.
How are Texas regulators reacting?
Texas regulators are grappling with the changing electricity market. The Public Utility Commission reviews all power generating companies’ mergers when they amount to more than 1% of electricity sales in Texas. Mergers have increased in the last few years. PUC reviewed five mergers in 2015. This increased to 26 in 2018. In a December meeting, the PUC recommended the Texas Legislature increase the percentage of sales triggering automatic review from 1% to 10%. The idea is to prevent one energy company from dominating the electricity market and using its size to dictate Texas energy rates.
The PUC also seeks clarification from the Legislature on how battery storage projects should be considered in TDU regulations. When a transmission and distribution utility (TDU) has battery storage, does that storage capacity count toward the current 1% threshold for PUC merger review? Or should a TDU even be allowed to operate utility scale batteries? These questions can only be answered by the Texas Legislature, so all will have to wait as the 86th Regular Session unfolds between January 8 and May 27, 2019.
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