Energy Storage Testing Done in Texas
No one at the equipment lot here would blame you for failing to notice the drab green box sitting across from the spare transformers. But the lithium ions inside that refrigerator-size container are part of a wave of energy storage technology that could help Texas revolutionize its electric grid.
Oncor, the state’s largest transmission company, is installing five of the batteries this summer in South Dallas neighborhoods, providing backup power to schools, traffic lights and a fire station. With the capacity to each store 50 kilowatt-hours of energy — enough to power three to five houses for three hours — the batteries are designed to kick in when the electricity trips off, whether because of a falling branch or equipment issues.
“We want to see what they do,” said Don Clevenger, Oncor’s senior vice president of strategic planning. “This stuff works, it’s just, is it going to work in the real world?”
The project’s $500,000 cost is an afterthought for the multibillion-dollar company, but it is part of a larger trend of investment in what the industry has long considered its holy grail: a backup source of low-carbon energy from intermittent sources like wind and the sun.
In part because of its fast-growing renewable energy sector, Texas has become a major testing ground for storage technology, which, while still decades away from grid-wide use because of its costs, is gaining attention as the technology improves.