Lancium, an energy technology company, has built a new data center in Fort Stockton that is a highly controllable load. It can respond to frequency issues instantaneously and provide ancillary services to ERCOT. Controllable Load Resources are a category of load within the ERCOT market that allow highly responsive loads to interact directly with the ERCOT grid operator, and are then rewarded by the ERCOT market for the services provided.
East Texas is famous for its piney woods, saw mills, and conservative politics. Can Texas cities help east Texas preserve its heritage?
Big cities in Texas routinely push development into undeveloped areas for their suburban growth, and have sprawl-oriented development patterns that contribute to local ozone issues and traffic problems. This growth pattern is almost certainly unsustainable, and more effort should be focused on redevelopment of existing areas to allow more people and businesses to be inside of cities instead of on their outskirts. This is a hard problem to solve, but is worth doing, and the kind of efforts that excite us at Goff Policy – people focused problems of great complexity but big public benefit.
In the meantime, Texas cities could work together to acquire land in east Texas to preserve existing piney wood habitat.
Using bond money or tax revenue, or by using carbon cost fees from natural gas or coal fired power plants (from Austin or San Antonio), cities could work together to create a plan to buy and preserve forests in east Texas to reduce sprawl opportunities and restore forestland and protect potential carbon sinks. These cities could allow some recreational use of these areas, but also preserve them as wilderness, to be managed in perpetuity as wildlands.
The comparative cost of acreage in rural east Texas is much lower than land in and near the major cities in the state, conservation work create additional jobs in the region, and a minimal amount of ongoing timber sales could fund the ongoing costs of operations and maintenance of the preserves. The portion that is used as timberlands could also act as a hedge against construction costs that can be a significant driver to cost of housing in urban areas. With a generational perspective, land could be acquired as it becomes available for sale, and pieced together over decades.
The ERCOT Board of Directors approved a new Aggregated Distributed Energy Resources (ADER) Pilot Project for utilities and retail electric providers to support the exploration of the market and reliability impacts of aggregating small batteries and generators across a wide area to work together as a virtual power plant. This pilot project is ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission’s response to OBDRR 41, a proposed rule revision to ERCOT demand response rules that was filed by Tesla. Tesla withdrew the proposal following the approval of the pilot project.
Sunnova has proposed that it should be able to provide microgrid services to master planned communities in California for solar plus storage and local resiliency. A shared microgrid will allow residents to provide power to each other during grid emergencies, when the bulk power system might not be available due to shortages or wildfires.
Of course, local utilities have pushed back on this; providing grids to communities as a monopoly with a guaranteed rate of return is the business of utilities since Thomas Edison’s days. But good planning can create opportunities to invest in more local resiliency, and perhaps for a lower cost than what is provided by the local monopoly utility. Community microgrids where power is shared across a variety of customers will be an emerging policy issue in the United States over the coming years. This will be useful not just for new communities, but for shared solar and storage in a condo association or apartment complex, or sharing an oversized solar plus storage installation at a local library, fire station, or community center with nearby residents during an emergency.
As reported by PV Magazine, owners of solar + storage at their homes could qualify for additional compensation from their retail electric providers. Companies like Tesla, Shell Energy, and David Energy plan to offer products in the ERCOT retail market so that their customers can provide grid services to ERCOT and receive compensation or a lower energy bill. Although Texas’ ERCOT grid is not regulated by FERC, this demonstrates voluntarily compliance with FERC Order #2222 – and ERCOT is moving more quickly than other ISOs to integrate these devices into their market design. Goff Policy has played an active role in this issue area.