The Austin City Council on Thursday, Oct. 1, approved a $3 million contract with Seattle-based 1Energy Systems, Inc. for the purchase of a 1.5 megawatt energy storage system. Part of the cost is being offset with a $1 million grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
The storage system includes a lithium-ion Tesla battery that continues the move to bring innovative technology and clean energy to an area of East Austin that was once home to a toxic petroleum tank farm that was forced to close down by nearby residents and regulators.
Sprouting near the Springdale Road and Airport Boulevard area now are plans for an up to 3.2 MW community solar farm.
The solar farm will allow Austin Energy customers who can’t install solar panels on their roofs because of the upfront costs or because they live in apartments or homes covered by shade, to subscribe to clean energy from the project.
“This continues Austin Energy’s innovation in clean energy for our customers,” said Kurt Stogdill, Austin Energy Green Building and Sustainability Manager. “This project is good for the environment and it is good for our economy because it continues to grow the clean energy industry in Austin.”
“This project also addresses equity,” Stogdill said, “because everyone will have an opportunity to participate in the benefits of solar energy.”
The battery system capacity is small by utility standards, but has been designed to allow Austin Energy to test energy storage and how it is balanced with the energy demands on the grid and voltage fluctuations, particularly on an electric feeder served by high levels of solar production. The system also allows Austin Energy to understand the potential environmental benefits of using storage to accommodate higher levels of distributed solar power.
Stogdill says he sees this project as a stepping stone to a future where distributed generation, such as solar, and energy storage systems can be deployed at the neighborhood level, shopping centers and other critical community assets to provide more resilient “micro-grids.”
“The utility industry – which remained largely the same for over a century – is now rapidly changing,” Stogdill said. “We must be at the forefront of that change to benefit our customers.”