The shift is on: CPS Energy breaks ground on its first storage + solar project in Texas


With all the confidence of a silver slugger, CPS Energy is embracing the shift with the announcement of the company’s first solar + storage project in San Antonio, Texas. This shift however, maximizes the use of electricity generated by solar, rather than minimizing a player’s chance at getting a hit.

This project is an unprecedented move for the Texas municipal utility, yet a highly logical one. The largest logistical hurdle left in large-scale solar taking on a larger share of the electricity mix has been the issue of peak generation misaligning with peak demand, which often begins just an hour after peak generation.

And, while one school of thought is that the issue of excess mid-day generation can be solved by shifting the time of peak demand to the time of peak generation, CPS is taking a supply-side approach by using the project’s massive battery storage system to retain generation for peak demand.

“Today we took a very important step in advancing our technology in regards to battery storage,” said President and CEO of CPS Energy Paula Gold-Williams in a release. “Working with Southwest Research Institute, we will expand our knowledge of solar energy and battery storage and further expand our energy expertise. For us, the most important thing is to meet this community’s energy demand today and tomorrow. This project aligns with our ‘Flexible Path’ strategy and allows us to reduce our carbon footprint while at the same time incorporating battery storage into our system.”

The $16 million project will be located on around 50 acres of land provided by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and will be constructed by RES Americas. The project is being partially funded by the $3 million New Technology Implementation Grant (NTIG) that CPS was awarded in 2016 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The purpose of NTIG’s funding is to offset the cost of development on projects and technologies that reduce emissions in Texas. The goals of the program are threefold, prioritizing improving the air quality in Texas to meet Federal Clean Air Act standards, encouraging the development of new technologies to quell greenhouse gas emissions and funding projects that will make Texas a leader in the development of new technologies that solve environmental challenges while creating industry and business in the state.

This project seems like another instance of CPS following the trail of innovation. As San Antonio’s municipal utility, it is one of the largest municipal utilities in the nation. CPS also lead Texas’ now stampeding solar charge when in 2012 the company agreed to by power from and was crucial in the locating of OCI’s 400 MW solar project in San Antonio.

And while that was unprecedented Texan solar development, this is unprecedented Texan battery storage development. For reference, Vistra Energy’s 10 MW battery storage system, announced in June, took the cake for being Texas’ largest connected to a solar project. That battery, however comes companion to the Lone Star State’s largest solar power plant at 180 MW, where the solar portion of CPS’ project is just 5 MW.

This new battery and solar project is expected to go online in the summer of 2019.

Correction: 10/11/18
It was previously reported that Vistra Energy’s 10 MW battery storage system was the largest on the state of Texas. that is incorrect, as it is the largest connected to a solar project in the state. The largest battery storage project is Younicos’ 36 MW system, connected to a 153 MW wind farm owned and operated by Duke Energy.

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