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Texas grid mostly uses fossil fuels, but this company is planning to put more battery power online

The low temperatures in Texas last week led to the high energy demand on the grid. That means a lot of fossil fuels got burned, contributing to climate change, which in turn increases the frequency and severity of natural disasters.

But the market share for renewable energy in the state is growing. And batteries, while currently a minuscule part of the energy makeup of Texas, are increasingly coming online.

“It’s large compared to how it was in the past,” said Alfonso Reyes, site manager of a new solar and battery project in North Texas.

Reyes’ company, Enel Green Power, plans 600 megawatts (MW) of new battery capacity in Texas by the end of this year.

That includes the Lily Solar + Storage plant in Kaufman County, southeast of Dallas. The project, which connected to the state’s electric grid last year, combines 55 MW of battery capacity with 181 MW of solar.

Reyes said Lily’s solar panels can power about 33,000 homes, and the battery can light thousands more.

The company’s push to build utility-scale storage in Texas comes as the price of batteries has dropped significantly. A November report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory said the cost of stand-alone battery systems dropped 13.1% from 2020 to 2021. Residential and commercial systems also got cheaper, dropping 9.7% and 10.7% respectively.

“Just like flat screen TVs, cell phones, and every other electronic we rely on, our batteries are becoming cheaper and more prevalent,” said Jeff Clark, president of Advanced Power Alliance, a trade association for renewable energy companies.

That decrease in cost also shows in the number of projects planned around the state.

According to an industry analysis of plans on file with the grid manager, developers in Texas are planning to add 1,413 MW of storage capacity to the state’s energy mix, as well as 17,164 MW of solar and 13,341 of wind. Current levels are 199 MW, 5,090 MW and 32,356 MW, respectively.

In North Texas, Denton, Hood, and Navarro Counties have power storage projects in the pipeline. And that could help in the future, as more severe weather becomes more frequent.

Texas Monthly recently reported that “the overall warming of the planet disrupts weather systems in ways that increase the chances for occasional extreme-cold events.”

Clark sees renewables, batteries, nuclear power, and natural gas as part of a diverse energy mix the state will need to serve the growing population and export to customers overseas. Battery storage, he said, can serve people when the wind or sun is not there.

The state got over 60% of its energy from fossil fuels in 2020. The government-supervised nonprofit that manages the state’s electric grid says 24.8% of its generating capacity is wind and 3.8% is solar. Battery storage makes up only .2% of capacity.

“Partnering energy storage with wind and solar generation allows us to fill in more hours of the day,” Clark said.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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