The technology group Wärtsilä has reached commercial operation date (COD) for two major interconnected energy storage systems in South Texas totaling 200 MW and owned by Eolian LP, a portfolio company of Global Infrastructure Partners.
The Madero and Ignacio energy storage plants will be operated using Eolian software, enabling full participation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market. This will add much needed year-round reliable operational ramping capacity to the system. The order for Wärtsilä was booked in February 2021.
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. It is also the first use of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for standalone utility-scale energy storage systems, which was introduced through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022.
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 in tandem with repeated summer and winter 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, VP Americas, Wärtsilä Energy. “Texas needs more flexible capacity solutions like energy storage for grid support and energy resource optimization. This will help the state as it faces the natural replacement cycle of older inflexible generators and adapts to more frequent extreme weather events.”
Amid an uncertain market redesign process, Eolian invested hundreds of millions of dollars to construct the projects using cutting-edge technology, said Aaron Zubaty, CEO of Eolian.
“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,” Zubaty said. “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.”
Wärtsilä’s GEMS Digital Energy Platform is a critical aspect of the system, which monitors and controls the flow of energy, enabling these projects 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.
— Solar Builder magazine