Monday morning Vistra Corp announced its battery energy storage facility is officially online. It has the ability to instantly release energy to the power grid.
As the long hot summer months inch closer, the conversation about energy reliability and the power grid continues to be at the forefront of many Texans' minds. There's a new battery energy storage facility in North Texas that is being touted as part of the solution to help minimize disruptions in electricity when the demand gets high.
Located at the DeCordova Energy Storage Facility in Granbury, the 3,000 individual battery modules stored in 86 containers can hold 260-megawatts, which can power about 130,000 Texas residences during normal grid conditions.
The Lithium-ion system stores excess electricity from the grid and can also release the energy when demand is high.
"With these batteries, they are charging at night for the most part when we’re not using power as much and all those wind farms are blowing across the state of Texas. They're charging with energy when it’s most available and then they’re going to put that power back onto the grid when our customers really need it," explained Claudia Morrow senior vice president of development for Vistra Corps.
She said they can take about an hour to charge and discharge. Unlike a regular power plant that has the ramp-up and stays at a certain level, it's not the same for the batteries, which can be used as the 'flip of a switch' so to speak.
What makes the Granbury site unique is the fact that it's considered a hybrid. Across from the containers of batteries are four combustion turbines that are powered by natural gas and backed up by diesel fuel in case there are any issues getting natural gas.
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"I think the biggest benefit is renewables is where people are interested in seeing the power grid go, but with renewables, with the wind and the sun you don't always have it in the quantity that you like, this can store it when it's in excess and discharge it," said Jim Burke, Vistra president and CFO. "And if the wind and the sun have not come back yet, we can turn on the combustion turbine which is natural gas-fueled, and make sure the consumers have the power they need when they need it."
“This is important because we have a really powerful build-up of renewable energy in Texas which is wonderful, but it’s intermittent that intermittency is buffered by batteries that can turn on in a second if the sunlight is not available or if the wind is not blowing so that the stability of our grid is enhanced because we got batteries thermos generation, we got renewable and it all works," said State Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas), who attended the ribbon cutting of the new facility.
He thinks this hybrid model is one of the solutions needed for the state as more people move to Texas and the demand for energy becomes greater.
Johnson believes there needs to be a technology agnostic incentive to encourage this type of innovation when it comes to alternative energy sources.
"If we incentivized dispatchable generation, we could let the market figure out whether it should be built with batteries, or hydrogen storage or any other form we can use that's environmentally and economically sustainable," said Johnson. "It's being able to work with markets to provide the result that we want that that's what we do as policymakers."
The Granbury site was constructed in less than a year and got its first actual real-world experience last week when ERCOT asked people to conserve energy due to the unseasonably hot May weather and the fact several power plants went offline.
“It worked out well that we were able to test and it performed exactly as it was supposed to," said Morrow about the batteries.
The company said this is the second of 7 zero-energy carbon projects the company is bringing to Texas, which is part of a billion-dollar investment.
"As our fleet and electric grids across the country transition to cleaner generation, we haven't lost sight of our essential role in providing reliable, affordable electricity. The battery storage technology at DeCordova accomplishes those objectives – providing instantaneous-start, dispatchable generation to help balance the intermittency of renewable energy as the electric grid transitions to low-to-zero-carbon resources," said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra. "No doubt, a project of this size and an overall investment this ambitious solidifies Vistra's position as a market leader in investing in, owning, and operating emission-free power generation in Texas and beyond while balancing affordability and reliability."
Vistra Corp the containers and project inverters were supplied by Sungrow and Mortenson provided engineering and construction expertise.