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ERCOT Hopes To Strengthen Grid With Batteries

In the span of two weeks, the power grid operator released 8 conservation alerts
Photo: petrmalinak | Shutterstock

Even with temperatures recently dipping from the three-digit record-breaking heat, Texas power grid operator ERCOT released six conservation advisory alerts in the last seven days and eight in the last two weeks. Now, a committee is discussing integrating batteries to strengthen the grid’s reliability.

ERCOT’s Reliability and Markets Committee held a meeting on Aug. 30, 2023, to discuss the best way the grid could incorporate batteries as an alternative source of energy. According to Scientific American, in the past five years, Texas installed 2.5 gigawatts of battery capacity, which represents one-quarter of the country’s total battery capacity.

One of the advantages of batteries is that they can be used to store energy from any source, taking in extra energy when demand is low or production is high and injecting extra energy into the grid when other sources struggle. 

Earlier this month, ERCOT’s CEO Pablo Vegas raised concerns about the growing reliance on renewable energy for the Texas power grid. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, in early August 2023, Vegas held a presentation for rural electric officials where he said the Texas’ electricity production is completely dependent on intermittent renewable power to meet demand. 

“We have to have a balanced, reliable, always available generation to serve them no matter what the weather,” he told the audience. “That’s our challenge.”

While August brought suffocating weather to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s not just the heat that’s stressing the grid — outages at fossil fuel plants and low wind power are compromising the grid’s ability to keep up with demand.

This dependency becomes more evident during the periods of time right before sunrise and after sunset, when solar power decreases and the grid relies on fossil fuel plants to make up the difference in demand during the evening time. However, according to the Houston Chronicle, on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2023, natural gas and coal plants experienced unexpected energy outages that combined with low wind power generation led the grid operator to call for conservation.

As reported by Fox 4, on Thursday, the ERCOT board will vote on whether to approve the battery proposal or to send it back for further review.