Austin’s municipal utility is trying to figure out how to use solar and storage to save money and boost grid reliability.
To answer this, Austin Energy is launching a pilot program which will see the utility install its first large-scale batteries in addition to its growing solar installations. The Department of Energy is helping to fund the pilot and will install a control system which to help quantify the value of the assets.
According to GTM it “will be more than an academic exercise, because Austin Energy is working toward 10 megawatts of distributed storage and 55 percent renewable energy by 2025. The grid implications of that surge will manifest more acutely in a smaller, municipal-sized service territory.”
The program was brought about as a response to a challenge. GTM states the utility wanted to reach “14 cents per kilowatt-hour levelized cost of energy for solar and energy storage. The utility won $4.3 million from the DOE’s Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV (SHINES) program, in addition to $1 million from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to support the solar-plus-storage exploration.”
This was where the idea of a central controller came about. Instead of relying on each independent distributed resource a controller will help balance the system for maximum efficiency.
GTM has listed out the goals so far:
- More than 1 megawatt of distributed solar in the Pecan Street clean energy housing development
- 2.5 megawatts of community solar to be built in east Austin by late fall
- A 1.75-megawatt/3.2-megawatt-hour Younicos battery at the Pecan Street distribution feeder
- A 1.5-megawatt/3-megawatt-hour LG Chem battery at the substation next to the community solar
- Seven Stem battery systems sited on commercial properties
- Six residential batteries to come at Pecan Street
- Solar forecasting software from Clean Power Research
- DER optimizer from Doosan Gridtech to assess supply and demand across the network and control the whole system. Austin Energy is testing multiple communications pathways (internet, cellular and AMI) to see how they perform for different applications.
Assuming this is successful, Austin Energy plans to roll it out across the city.
This article can be read in it’s entirety at GTM where they have an in-depth explanation of each of the project’s goals.