How Energy Storage Can Solve ERCOT's Issues and Create a Renewable Future for Texas
With concerns about the Texas power grid growing, can renewable energy like wind and solar power be dependable and consistent sources of energy to keep the lights on in the future? Let’s take a closer look at how energy storage solutions can solve the energy problem and help Texans get the most from sustainable, renewable energy production – all while creating even more job opportunities for specialists in the renewables and energy storage sectors.
ERCOT and Texas's Power Issues
Throughout 2021, Texans have become more aware of power generation, storage, and conservation issues than ever before. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) - responsible for roughly 90% of the state’s electricity – was the focus of media headlines, political debates and consumer outrage back in February when a once in a generation winter storm hit Texas causing blackouts for several days and leading to at least 151 deaths.
ERCOT found themselves under the microscope again in June when they requested that Texans conserve energy usage while many natural gas plants went offline while, at the same time, weather patterns slowed the production of wind turbines. Fortunately, energy demands did not ultimately exceed the available supply as of Monday June 21 and the request for energy conservation had been lifted. However, the reputational damage to ERCOT may have already been done. According to a new survey from renewable energy provider Rhythm, 68% of Texans don’t trust the Texas power grid to avoid failing in the summer heat.
Texas's Renewable Energy Commitment
Developers and investors have doubled down on renewable energy in Texas over the past few years. According to ERCOT, projects totaling 15 gigawatts - enough to power a small-mid-sized country - are either currently under construction or in advanced development. Over twice the amount from 2018. There’s currently an estimated $20-$25 billion investment in forthcoming wind, solar and battery-storage projects for the state of Texas, per reports from the American Clean Power Association. Leaving an influx of job opportunities available in renewables over the next few years in the state.
Skeptics believe that the variable nature of renewable energy sources will make them unreliable to power the Texas electrical grid. Because certain weather conditions can increase or decrease the power generation of renewable sources, they will sometimes make either too much or too little power for the grid and can cause damage that is expensive to repair. For example, hydropower is largely dependent on water currents, precipitation levels and is impacted by the seasons. Wind power relies on wind speed, concentration and temperature. And solar power depends on the sun’s energy concentration, the amount of diffuse solar radiation and the time of year. This is known as intermittent power generation.
Despite the variable nature of renewable energy sources, energy storage solutions can make them reliable power generators all year long.
What is Energy Storage and How Does It Work?
Energy storage is the capture of energy at a single point in time for use in the future. For example, holding water back behind a hydroelectric dam is a traditional form of energy storage.
As technology advances, energy storage will play an ever-increasing role in integrating variable energy sources into the grid and ensuring energy consistency. This also means that more and more jobs will become available in the field over time.
Scroll through the images below to learn the six main types of energy storage used today:
How can energy storage overcome intermittent power?
In order to integrate variable energy sources into the grid, an effective energy storage system is required to ensure excess energy can be stored for on-demand use as required.
Energy storage can overcome the problem of intermittent power by introducing more flexibility to the grid. Solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy sources can be integrated effectively, creating a cleaner, low carbon energy mix that can evolve more reliably.
For instance, in March it was announced that the Wärtsilä Corporation (headquartered in Finland) would be building two standalone battery energy storage systems (BESS) equaling about 200MW of output. This project is the largest currently under construction in Texas and, according to Wärtsilä, will be able to provide additional grid support during extreme events like this past winter’s storm.
Resolving the intermittent generation problem for the future
Whereas the challenges of integrating variable renewable sources into the grid are significant, action needs to be taken now to meet global climate change targets and ensure a sustainable energy system for the future.
With storage technology advancing, costs are dropping significantly, making variable energy integration more achievable than ever before. Likewise, as energy storage becomes more standardized across the industry, the energy market won’t have to contend with the diverse technical requirements and processes involved in their design.
When winters get colder in Texas and hurricanes become more frequent, ERCOT and their energy storage plans will be under a microscope from consumers, politicians, and the industry itself. Regulatory policies will need to be updated to further insure reliability and sustainability of the Texas electrical grid.
Looking for Jobs in Renewable Energy?
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