Texas Public Utility Commissioners considering new Distribution Interconnection standards for Battery Storage

April 4, 2022
With some 65 GW of solar and storage already in the interconnection queue, the TPUC is concerned about an unknown amount of BESS eventually linking into the distribution system.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages that state’s electric grid, has an incoming power distribution problem bigger than you can hang a hat on.

Recent discussions within the Texas Public Utility Commission concerns challenges over vast amounts of utility-scale solar and energy storage capacity joining into the already massive and diverse ERCOT system. The TPUC also wants to figure out cohesive policy on handling that influx of solar and storage as it enters the distribution grid.

“There are 36,000 MWs of utility-scale solar plus energy storage systems, and over 31,000 MW of stand-alone storage in the ERCOT Interconnection queue,” TPUC Commissioner Jimmy Glotfelty wrote in an open memo to Chairman Peter Lake and fellow commissioners Lori Cobos and Will McAdams.

Beyond that may be a potential torrent of battery energy storage systems either within utility-scale or perhaps microgrid projects on a more customer-facing level.

“Unfortunately it is unknown how many megawatts of battery storage are seeking to interconnect to the distribution systems across ERCOT’s utilities, municipal utilities and electric cooperatives,” Glotfelty added. “The lack of visility into these distribution assets is an oversight.”

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TPUC and ERCOT worked together in standarding the transmission voltage side of the generation interconnection equation back in the 1990s. Glotfelty argued that the situation on the distributed energy resource level is just as crucial.

“There is no standardization across utilities related to the costs, timing, and terms of conditions of interconnection,” he wrote. “Rather than address these issues in a piecemeal fashion through contested cases which increase the potential for contradictory policies, I believe we are better served by addressing these important policies up front in a forum in which all market participants can participate.”

Late last year, independent power producer Broad Reach Power brought two 100-MW BESS projects online. Those are located in Mason and Williamson counties.

This year, engineering and construction firm Burns & McDonnell completed three 10-MW/20-MWh installations in west Texas.

Last year, it was revealed that Tesla was working on a 100-MW Megapack BESS near the Arlington region.

Texas is one of five states which account for more than 70 percent of nationwide battery storage capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The others are California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

Energy storage systems are viewed as an ideal component to pair with intermittent wind and solar resources. Texas is home to a nation-lead wind power capacity of close to 36 GW, according to reports.

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(Rod Walton, senior editor for EnergyTech, is a 14-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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