Wärtsilä 200 MW/429 MWh self-contained battery storage facility commissioned in Texas

Two years ago this month, Wärtsilä Energy, a global energy storage and management company, announced it had begun work on a new 200 MW, 429 MWh battery storage facility in Texas. Many battery storage facilities are located adjacent to wind or solar power plants, but this one is a standalone facility designed to provide grid stabilization services to Texas grid operator ERCOT.

At the time, Risto Paldanius, vice president of Wärtsilä Energy Americas, said in a press release, “Energy storage is fast becoming an important asset for the global energy markets and Wärtsilä has a leading position in this field. When planning these installations, we were able to provide solid expertise based on our deep experience in energy storage, adding significant value to our energy optimization capabilities.”

In an email to CleanTechnica, the company said the facility’s primary purpose was to help maintain a stabilized grid as more renewable energy from wind and solar installations is added to the grid. It will also be a source of emergency power in a crisis situation as happened when Texas experienced unexpectedly low temperatures in February 2021.

Wärtsilä controllers

Net-scale storage is about more than just batteries. Sophisticated digital control mechanisms are required to respond to changes in frequency or demand in milliseconds. The Texas installations will rely on Wärtsilä’s GridSolv Quantum – a fully integrated modular and compact energy storage system designed for ease of implementation and sustainable energy optimization for project sites and market applications. It is optimized for flexibility and functionality with various subsystems and complies with all North American and international standards.

It will also leverage Wärtsilä’s advanced GEMS energy management system, which monitors, controls and optimizes energy assets at both site and portfolio levels to achieve optimal system performance. Using machine learning combined with historical and real-time data analytics, it optimizes the asset mix, enabling customers to remotely monitor, operate, identify and diagnose equipment with unparalleled security, reliability and flexibility. It is also one of the top-rated cybersecurity systems and provides a barrier against malicious digital attacks on the power grid.

Get turned on

In the energy industry, the date on which a new installation is commissioned is called the commercial operation date. That date has arrived for the new self-contained grid-scale project in Texas, which consists of two interconnected energy storage systems totaling 200 MW, known as Madero and Ignacio. The installation is owned by Eolian LP, a portfolio company of Global Infrastructure Partners. The two energy storage plants will be managed using Eolian software, enabling full participation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market and adding much-needed reliable year-round operational capability to the system.

The multi-hour continuous transmission capacity of the facilities provides the longest duration of any energy storage asset operating in ERCOT, and as a combined site, the project is the world’s largest (in MWh) fully merchant- and market-facing energy storage facility built to date . According to a Wärtsilä press release, this is the first installation to benefit from the latest investment deduction legislation. Until last year, utility-scale stand-alone energy storage systems were not eligible for investment credit.

Construction of the projects started in January 2021 to meet the rapidly evolving flexibility and reliability needs of the ERCOT market. The facility responds immediately to maintain electricity production and keep lights on when power generation fails or cannot respond quickly enough to rapidly changing conditions. Wärtsilä and Eolian have worked diligently to build this critical piece of network infrastructure during an exceptionally challenging period of global pandemic and severe supply chain disruptions. Despite these challenges, they persevered to complete the facility that will serve a power grid and a market experiencing rapid load increases and repeated extreme weather events.

“Wärtsilä was determined to deliver the energy storage facilities of Madero and Ignacio on time, despite the challenging forces of the industry, to ensure additional deployable resources to improve reliability for the ERCOT market,” said Risto Paldanius. “Texas needs more flexible capacity solutions, such as energy storage for grid support and energy resource optimization. This will help the state with the natural replacement cycle of older inflexible generators and adapt to more frequent extreme weather events.”

Aaron Zubaty, CEO of Eolian, added: “In the midst of an uncertain market redesign process, Eolian has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build these projects using advanced technology. We have done this because of the unshakeable belief that the highly flexible and readily deployable multi-hour resources at this location will do the hard day-to-day work of rapid ramping and fast start-up, leaving aging, inflexible and increasingly fragile generators available to the system in back roll up.

“Adding new flexible resources today preserves this older generation for more limited use in rare reliability events until they eventually retire and ensures an orderly transition during the natural replacement cycle of aging infrastructure. Madero and Ignacio are the definition of functional deployability, keeping the lights on while keeping electricity affordable.”

Maximum energy flow

Wärtsilä’s GEMS Digital Energy Platform is a crucial aspect of the system. It monitors and controls the energy flow, enabling this installation to provide grid support during periods of grid instability. With Wärtsilä’s Storage+ Solution, the projects will provide key support services required for grid stability, such as fast frequency response and frequency control. The Madero and Ignacio sites are the first systems to use GEMS to qualify for fast frequency response in the ERCOT market.

The project includes GridSolv Quantum from Wärtsilä, a fully integrated modular and compact energy storage system that offers the lowest lifecycle costs, fastest implementation times, highest quality control and maximum flexibility. GridSolv Quantum is a certified UL 9540 compliant design equipped with several safety features.

Eolian owns and operates a growing portfolio of energy storage projects and invests in the most experienced renewable energy development teams in the US. For nearly 20 years, Eolian’s founding management has worked together to build the assets that are at the core of the company, creating unique and proprietary structures that have directly funded the development of more than 21,000 MW of successfully operating energy storage, solar and wind generation capacity across the country. Eolian is owned by its employees and funds managed by Global Infrastructure Partners.

The takeaway meals

Last year, my colleague Michael Barnard interviewed Andy Tang, Wärtsilä’s vice president of storage, to learn more about how the company is using energy storage to support microgrids, especially on offshore islands that are vulnerable to the ravages of a changing climate. For more on that topic, check out Michael’s interview.

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