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Wärtsilä 200 MW/500+ MWh Standalone Battery Storage Facility Switched On In Texas

Wärtsilä has completed a 200 MW / 500+ MWh stand-alone battery storage project in Texas that will help stabilize that state’s grid.

Two years ago this month, Wärtsilä Energy, a global energy storage and management company, announced that it was providing its advanced energy storage technology on a new 200 MW, 500+ MWh battery storage facility in Texas funded and developed by Eolian, L.P., a portfolio company of Global Infrastructure Partners.

At that time, Risto Paldanius, vice president of Wärtsilä Energy Americas, said in a press release, “Energy storage is rapidly becoming a key asset for the global energy markets and Wärtsilä has a leading position in this field. In the planning of these installations, we were able to provide solid expertise based on our depth of experience in energy storage, and this added considerable value to our energy optimization capabilities.”

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

Wärtsilä Control Mechanisms

Grid-scale storage is about more than just batteries. Sophisticated digital control mechanisms are required to respond in milliseconds to changes in frequency or demand. The Texas installations will rely on Wärtsilä’s GridSolv Quantum — a fully integrated modular and compact energy storage system designed for ease of deployment and sustainable energy optimization across project locations and market applications. It has been optimized for flexibility and functionality with several sub-systems, and meets all North America and international standards.

It also will leverage Wärtsilä’s sophisticated GEMS energy management system, which monitors, controls, and optimizes energy assets at both the site and portfolio levels to achieve optimal system performance. Using machine learning together with historic and real time data analytics, it optimizes the asset mix, making it possible for customers to remotely monitor, operate, identify, and diagnose equipment with unrivaled safety, reliability, and flexibility. It is also one of the top-rated systems for cybersecurity, providing a barrier to malicious digital attacks on the utility grid.

Getting Turned On

In the energy business, the date when a new installation gets switched on is called the commercial operation date. That date has how arrived for the new standalone grid-scale project in Texas, which consists of two interconnected energy storage systems totaling 200 MW, known as Madero and Ignacio. The installation was brought online by Eolian. The two energy storage plants will be operated using Eolian software, enabling full participation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market and adding much needed year-round reliable operational capacity to the system.

The facilities’ multi-hour continuous dispatch capability provides the longest duration of any energy storage assets 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 Tax Credit legislation. Until last year, standalone utility scale energy storage systems were not eligible for investment tax credits.

Construction of the projects began in January 2021 to meet the rapidly evolving flexibility and reliability needs of the ERCOT market. The facility reacts instantaneously to sustain electricity output and keep the lights on when power generation fails or cannot respond quickly enough to rapidly-changing conditions. Wärtsilä and Eolian worked diligently to construct this critical piece of grid infrastructure throughout an exceptionally difficult period that included a global pandemic and severe supply chain disruptions. Despite these challenges, they persevered to complete the facility that will serve a power grid and market experiencing rapid load growth as well as repeated extreme weather events.

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

Aaron Zubaty, CEO of Eolian, added, ”In the midst of an uncertain market redesign process, Eolian invested hundreds of millions of dollars to construct these projects using cutting edge technology. We did this because of an unwavering belief that the highly flexible and instantly dispatchable multi-hour resources at this site will do the hard daily work of fast ramping and quick starts, allowing aging, inflexible, and increasingly fragile generators to remain available to the system in backup roles.

“Adding new flexible resources today thereby 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 dispatchability and will keep the lights on while keeping electricity affordable.”

Maximizing Energy Flow

Wärtsilä’s GEMS Digital Energy Platform is a critical aspect of the system. It monitors and controls the flow of energy, which enables this installation to provide grid support during periods of grid instability. With Wärtsilä’s Storage+ Solution, the projects will deliver key ancillary services required for grid stability, such as fast frequency response and frequency regulation. 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 Wärtsilä’s GridSolv Quantum, a fully-integrated modular and compact energy storage system that offers the lowest lifecycle costs, fastest deployment times, highest quality control, and maximum flexibility. GridSolv Quantum is a certified UL 9540 compliant design fitted 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 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 generating capacity across the country. Eolian is owned by its employees and funds managed by Global Infrastructure Partners.

The Takeaway

Last year, my colleague Micheal 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, please check out Michael’s interview.

This article was updated on 4/5/2023 to reflect changes in the first and sixth paragraphs. 

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