The Mueller community in Austin, Texas

Some freak weather of the kind becoming common due to climate change occurred recently in the USA. Snow, ice and cold, all the way down to Texas, where the electricity system failed, and most of the publicity was centered.

Clean energy was immediately blamed by gas and nuclear lobbyists and the compromised politicians that support them. These depraved individuals have no grasp of irony and never get tired of embarrassing themselves by making destructive, moronic assertions in public. As generally happens, electric utility officials quickly corrected them, and pointed out that the gas and nuclear systems were the ones that failed and that clean energy performed better.

What many don’t know is that Texas is a world leader in renewables, and is quickly adopting ultra-modern utility grid and distributed energy systems and policies. Unlike some of those mentioned above, the state is full of excellent people and is in fact a world leader in wind power, and soon will also lead in solar, batteries, modern grid infrastructure and software. Within a few years the Texas grid will become more robust in the face of weather events like those in early 2021.

Cameron Freburg, a Utilities Strategist at Austin Energy, has been working on a project called Austin Shines that includes solar and battery development for power generation, for commercial business applications and for modern residential communities. It is also conducting pilots that will lead to vehicle-to-grid applications in the future.

It allows Texas residents and businesses to imagine a day when they can choose to operate from the power generated by their own building and stored in their own batteries, or power from the central grid, or some combination of the two. During emergencies like the recent climate change weather event, residents can opt in to receive payments or credits for allowing the central power utility to draw some juice from an electric car that isn’t being used, or a home battery or an organization’s battery.

This sounds ideal, but it is not all in place right now. However, the technology exists and Freburg’s job is to head up projects where such things are actually happening, monitor the results, refine the operating parameters, and help plan for future broad scale adoption.

Freburg’s group is currently studying two large grid scale battery installation projects, designed to improve the reliability of the grid during events such as the recent storm. The Kingsbery Energy Storage System consists of a 1.5 MW / 3 MWh lithium ion battery storage installation. The Mueller central system employs 7 x 250 kW each for a total lithium ion install of 1.5 MW / 2.5 MWh

Another of the Austin Shines pilots involves the Mueller community at the residents level. Mueller is a modern master planned eco-conscious mixed-use development that includes single-family homes, apartments, retail stores, restaurants, offices and film studios. There is a 30-acre lake/park, with jogging trails and an open-air amphitheater. The buildings are green with quiet low energy cooling systems, rooftop solar, electric vehicle chargers, on-site batteries, vehicle-to-grid testing, and smart solar inverters that are monitored by both Austin Energy and the building owners via their phone or computer.

Another project is the study of three installations of commercial-scale batteries with organizations that are now reducing their power bills by saving power when it is cheaper to buy, or self-generated, then using the battery power when peak power or highest usage rates are in effect.

This is only one example of forward-looking development in Texas, so it is best to ignore the rhetoric and support Austin Energy and others who are trying to build a clean energy, more resilient future.

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