Texas A&M System helps us stabilize the Texas energy grid

Power lines in Austin, Texas, on February 19, 2021.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Texas A&M University System has taken initial steps toward creating a peak-load power network on properties it owns across the state to stabilize the Texas power grid during peak demand periods.

Peaking power plants, also known simply as “peaker plants,” are power plants typically used to provide electricity during periods of peak demand. They are an essential part of modern power grids and provide a reliable source of electricity during periods of high demand.

On May 21, the A&M System invited private developers to submit proposals to build peaker power plants on A&M System-owned land, with funding from the newly created $5 billion Texas Energy Fund.

“This will help ensure that our campuses and surrounding communities never experience another power outage, while also improving power delivery to protect all of Texas,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

Sharp said hundreds of millions of dollars worth of research was lost during the 2021 winter storm Uri, when blackouts across Texas cut power to labs and refrigerators.

Peaking power plants are designed to prevent blackouts by only operating during times of high electricity demand, such as hot summer days when air conditioning systems are under particularly high strain, or during major events that require high energy consumption. They are not designed to operate continuously, but can be activated quickly when needed to stabilize the grid. They only operate on a few days a year.

Peaking power plants also play a crucial role in integrating renewable energy sources into the grid. Since renewable sources such as wind and solar are intermittent, peaking power plants can serve as backup power when these sources are not generating electricity.

The Texas Energy Fund was created after the blackouts caused by Winter Storm Uri made it clear to everyone that the Texas power grid did not have sufficient generating capacity. It was created in 2023 by Senate Resolution 2627, a bill sponsored by Senators Charles Schwertner, Carol Alvarado, Paul Bettencourt and Representative Todd Hunter. Voters approved the constitutional amendment creating the Texas Energy Fund in November.

Anna Harden

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