San Antonio's CPS Energy held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday for a solar power plant and storage facility it's building with Southwest Research Institute.
The five-megawatt facility will have 10 megawatts of storage — enough to power 1,500 homes — and is located on 49 acres donated by Southwest Research Institute, between Texas State Highway 151 and Commerce Boulevard on the city’s West Side.
"We've seen great success with distributed generation, small solar systems,” said Paula Gold-Williams, CPS chief executive officer. “With large systems, we can get economies of scale. When the energy company invests in that we can provide energy storage and clean power to everyone."
It will be the first solar facility that CPS owns, but the company leases 1,500 megawatts of solar and wind power, she said.
“This is the first step in our Flexible Path plan, bringing solar and storage together. That is the holy grail,” said Cris Eugster, CPS chief operating officer.
The company’s Flexible Path plan is increasing the number of renewable energy sources.
SwRI will have access to the facility for future research into renewable battery storage. Energy makes up about 35 percent of its current research portfolio. The organization has researched automotive batteries for 11 years, but electric grid power storage is a new addition.
“Energy storage is one of those areas that is really an important topic right now, so we believe it will be a big part of our portfolio in the future,” said Adam Hamilton, president of SwRI.
That research program is still being developed, said SwRI staff. The priority is getting the facility built.
“We’ll have the ability to collect a bunch of data on the usage of these type of cells,” said Terry Alger, director of SwRI’s automotive propulsion department. “It will give us first-hand knowledge on how a grid storage system works, and our goal will be to improve on that.”
The project is funded by a $3 million grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It is the eighth energy storage the TCEQ has funded under their New Technology Implementation Grant Program.
RES, a leading solar developer, was contracted to build the facility for $16.3 million, the company’s first in Texas.
RES has chosen Samsung nickel, magnesium, and cobalt based-batteries for the project that will be stored in racks on-site in four 40’ long storage containers.