On September 6, 2023, a presentation was given to the Wallis EDC about the Wallis Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project that will begin construction just outside of the city limits. The facility will be constructed off of Norcross Rd in the city of Wallis ETJ. The Wallis BESS Project is still in its first phase of a 4 phase stepped schedule till its operation is fully up in running in late 2024/early 2025. It is currently in its Interconnection Study Process Phase. The steps and dates according to the handout presented at the meeting and viewable in the slides of the video below are:
Phase I: Interconnection Study Process
- June 15, 2023 – Interconnection Application Submitted to CenterPoint
- October 2023 – Interconnection Process Completed with CenterPoint
Phase II: Notice To Proceed
- October 2023 – Signed Interconnection Agreement & Project Initiation
Phase III: Construction
- 12 – 15 Months – Regis clears site and begins initial construction in tandem with CenterPoint’s system upgrades.
Phase IV: Commercial Operation
- Late 2024/Early 2025 – Once online, the Wallis BESS Project will deliver grid stability services.
The presentation was primarily aimed to address the concerns of the Wallis, Texas community, particularly focusing on the safety aspects of the upcoming battery backup station.
The Project Overview
According to page 2 of the handout available at the presentation entitled “Executive Summary”:
“Regis Energy Partners (“Regis”) develops, constructs, and operates battery energy storage systems (“BESS”) across Texas. These BESS projects deliver critical stability services to the electrical grid. We partner with best-in-class civil, electrical, and environmental consultants, ensuring our projects are designed, built, and operated according to the highest industry standards. We have committed financing from a leading energy infrastructure investment firm, providing certainty that we will finish what we start. One of our near-term projects is located on the western edge of the City of Wallis and will interconnect with CenterPoint’s distribution system at the Wallis Substation. We expect to finalize the interconnection study process with CenterPoint in October 2023 and thereafter initiate construction of the project. Our aim is to work in close partnership with CenterPoint and the City of Wallis to bring the Wallis BESS Project into operation on an efficient timeline and with utmost focus on safety.”
So What is a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS)?
For those unfamiliar with this sort of project, a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) is far more than just a “big battery.” It’s a sophisticated ensemble of technologies working in harmony to store electrical energy and release it back into the grid when needed. Here’s a more detailed look at what a BESS is and its key components:
The Core Concept and Key Components of a BESS
At its most basic, a BESS is a system that uses batteries to store electrical energy for future use. However, unlike the small lithium-ion battery in your smartphone, a BESS uses industrial-scale batteries capable of storing enough energy to power hundreds or even thousands of homes. These systems are crucial in today’s energy landscape for a variety of reasons, including grid stabilization, renewable energy integration, and emergency backup power. The key components of a BESS are:
The heart of any BESS is its battery modules. These are the actual cells where electrical energy is stored. Depending on the scale and purpose of the BESS, different types of batteries may be used. Lithium-ion batteries are common due to their high energy density and long cycle life, but other types like flow batteries are also used, especially for large-scale applications.
The inverter is like the translator between the BESS and the electrical grid. Batteries store energy in Direct Current (DC) form, but the grid operates on Alternating Current (AC). The inverter’s job is to convert the DC energy stored in the batteries into AC energy that can be used by the grid.
The control system is the “brain” of the BESS. It continuously monitors various parameters like the state of charge of the batteries, the demand on the grid, and the health of the system. Based on these parameters, it decides when to charge or discharge the batteries. Modern control systems are incredibly sophisticated, using advanced algorithms and machine learning to optimize the BESS’s performance.
Cooling and Safety Systems
Storing and releasing large amounts of energy generates heat, which needs to be carefully managed to ensure the system’s safe operation. Cooling systems can range from simple air cooling to more complex liquid cooling solutions. In addition to cooling, safety systems are in place to detect and manage any faults or failures. This can include fire suppression systems, emergency shutdowns, and alarms.
All these components work in concert to make the BESS function seamlessly. During low-demand periods or when there’s excess energy from renewable sources, the control system commands the batteries to charge. When the grid needs extra power, the control system instructs the inverter to convert the stored DC energy into AC and release it into the grid.
Why Build a BESS?
The concept of a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) might seem complex, but its objectives are straightforward and can be beneficial for communities and the energy sector at large. Here’s an expanded look at why building a BESS is increasingly becoming a strategic necessity.
The electrical grid is a complex network that has to balance supply and demand in real-time. Any imbalance can lead to issues like voltage fluctuations, frequency changes, or even blackouts. This is where a BESS comes into play.
During off-peak hours, usually at night when most people are asleep, the demand for electricity drops. Power plants, however, can’t just shut down; they continue to generate electricity. A BESS can absorb this “extra” electricity, storing it for later use. Conversely, during peak demand—usually late afternoons and early evenings—the BESS can release the stored energy back into the grid, preventing the need for additional, often less-efficient “peaker” power plants to come online. This balancing act helps maintain a stable, reliable electrical grid.
Renewable Energy Integration
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are fantastic for the environment but pose a unique challenge: they are intermittent. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow, yet our need for electricity is constant.
A BESS acts as a buffer, storing excess energy generated on particularly sunny or windy days. When the weather isn’t cooperating, the stored energy can be released, ensuring a consistent, reliable supply of green energy. This capability is crucial for the broader adoption of renewable energy sources, helping us transition away from fossil fuels and combat climate change.
Imagine a scenario where a natural disaster or a technical failure knocks out power. In such cases, a BESS can act as an emergency backup, providing a critical supply of electricity to maintain essential services. Hospitals, emergency services, and even homes can benefit from the rapid response that a BESS can offer.
Unlike traditional diesel generators, which can take time to start and emit pollutants, a BESS can begin supplying electricity almost instantaneously and does so in an eco-friendly manner. This rapid, reliable response can be life-saving in emergency situations, making a BESS an invaluable asset for community resilience.
How Does a BESS Function Within the Electrical Grid?
Understanding how a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) functions within the electrical grid requires a closer look at its two main operational phases, the Charging Phase and the Discharging Phase:
Charging Phase: The Energy Bank
- Storing Excess Energy – During periods of low electricity demand—often late at night or early in the morning—the grid generates more electricity than is immediately needed. Similarly, on days with high wind speeds or abundant sunshine, renewable energy sources can produce more electricity than the grid can consume. This is where the BESS comes into action, acting like an “energy bank” that stores this excess energy for future use.
- Intelligent Control System – The control system plays a pivotal role during the charging phase. It continuously monitors various parameters, such as the current state of the grid, the state of charge of the batteries, and even weather forecasts in the case of renewable energy sources. Using this data, the control system intelligently decides how much electricity should be stored, optimizing for both efficiency and the longevity of the battery cells.
- Energy Quality and Conditioning – As the BESS charges, it also performs functions like energy conditioning to ensure that the stored electricity meets the quality standards required for grid use. This involves stabilizing the voltage and frequency of the incoming electricity, making it “grid-ready” for when it’s needed.
Discharging Phase: The Power Surge
- Meeting Peak Demand – During periods of high electricity demand, such as hot summer afternoons when air conditioners are running at full blast, the grid may struggle to meet the demand using only the baseline power plants. This is when the BESS discharges the stored energy back into the grid, effectively meeting the spike in demand without the need for activating less-efficient peaker plants.
- Inverter Role – The stored energy in the BESS is in Direct Current (DC) form, but the grid operates on Alternating Current (AC). The inverter converts the DC energy back to AC, synchronizing it with the grid’s frequency and voltage before sending it out. This process is seamless and can happen in milliseconds, providing an almost instantaneous supply of electricity.
- Coordinated Release – The control system coordinates the release of energy, ensuring it aligns with the grid’s needs. It calculates the optimal amount of energy to discharge, considering factors like current demand, battery state of charge, and even upcoming weather forecasts if renewable sources are involved.
Focus on Fire Safety
One of the most pressing concerns for any community when it comes to large-scale energy projects is safety. The fear of the batteries catching fire was the primary concern voiced by many in the community. According to the presentation and handout, the Wallis Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project has taken multiple steps to ensure the highest levels of fire safety, addressing community concerns proactively. Here are the fire safety measures in place, based on the information provided in the project documents and presentation.
- UL 9540A Certification – The Wallis BESS project uses equipment that is UL 9540A Certified. This Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification is a rigorous set of tests and standards specifically designed for energy storage systems. It ensures that the equipment used is capable of preventing and containing thermal runaway—a condition where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result like a fire.
- Proven Track Record – It’s worth noting that BESS projects with UL 9540A Certification have an excellent safety record. Over 1,000 MW+ of such projects have been installed across North America without a single incident of thermal runaway.
- 24/7 Monitoring – Advanced detection systems are installed to continuously monitor temperature, gases, and smoke. These systems are active 24/7, providing real-time data to the control center.
- Automatic Alerts and Actions – If any of the detectors sense values exceeding safe limits, the system automatically triggers a series of actions. First, it alerts local officials, site and remote operations teams, and the owners of the BESS. Simultaneously, it initiates an automatic shutdown of the affected BESS unit and activates exhaust fans to dissipate any hazardous gases or smoke, thereby containing the risk.
- Beyond Industry Standards – The design of the Wallis BESS project goes beyond mere compliance with industry standards. One example is the inclusion of 15 feet of spacing between components, exceeding typical guidelines. This additional spacing is a preventive measure to ensure that even if one module experiences issues, the risk of it affecting neighboring modules is minimized.
- Eliminating Thermal Runaway Risks – The layout and construction are engineered to maximize safety and specifically to eliminate the risk of a thermal runaway event spreading beyond a single enclosure. This means that the project is designed from the ground up to contain and manage any potential safety incidents effectively.
The Wallis Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) complete presentation can be viewed in the video below. The presentation starts at the 6 minute and 15 second mark of the video: