Arnold: Texas can take the lead in energy storage
Texas has long been a leader in energy innovation: Much of the technology allowing deepwater and shale oil and gas developments were invented and first used in the Lone Star State. Texas is also a wind energy leader, with more wind power installed than any other state.
Now Texas has the opportunity to lead in another wave of energy innovation: the storing of energy itself.
Storing energy by building what amounts to large-scale batteries could address issues of intermittency in renewable power and make it a more reliable source of energy.
Energy storage holds promise not just for large-scale power generation, but advances in the field could also mean better battery life for everyday products, from portable electronics to electric vehicles. But battery technology has proven to be very problematic. Changing one part of a battery design can create unforeseen problems that may not be detected without years of testing.
Texas has made significant gains in large-battery technology and energy storage, with pilot projects already up and running from companies like Duke Energy and Oncor. But the state could end up falling behind others, like California, which is leading the country in energy storage and has a state mandate to install 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage to their grid by the end of the decade.
Yet Texas remains well-positioned to become a leader in this field, with a reservoir of research expertise well-positioned to closely collaborate with industry, and a welcoming regulatory environment. One of the leading scientists in superconductivity, which provides materials for energy storage, is here in Texas, Dr. Paul Chu at the University of Houston, a recipient of the National Medal of Science for his work in superconductivity. The state may also benefit from having its own grid, potentially allowing for a more stable regulatory regime and freedom to experiment.
Energy storage seems to be always just “around the corner,” and it’s an expensive area of research. More state and federal research funds could put Texas further along the path to develop energy storage technology and materials. Adopting regulations that are more friendly to energy storage projects would also be a step in the right direction. Currently, transmission companies in Texas are prohibited from generating and selling electricity, in order to have a “wall” between transmission and generation companies.