Austin SHINES Project Modernizes Grid With Storage and Renewables

The Austin SHINES Project (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and solar PV) is laying the ground work for modernizing the electric grid. Through this project, Austin Energy along with many other partners are pairing renewable energy generation in the form of solar with battery storage at the residential, commercial, and grid scale. What this project does is maximize the value of that renewable generation and energy storage by connecting it to a centralized communications platform.

Energy storage may be the critical technology that will make widespread adoption of renewable energy possible and practical. With an ever growing renewable energy portfolio, Austin Energy is incorporating a way to use that energy when the sun might not be shining or the wind might not be blowing. Incorporating energy storage into a city’s roadmap allows for the flexible dispatch of energy, similar to that achieved with traditional resources for electricity generation. Energy storage can also address reliability concerns such as voltage variability at the grid level, providing more reliability and resilience for customers. As they continue to deploy these assets and build upon our grid modernization platform, Austin Energy will demonstrate in our own community what a renewable and energy independent future could look like in the future.

We interviewed Cameron Freberg, Utility Strategist for Electric Vehicles and Emerging Technologies at Austin Energy, about the project:

Q: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you, and how does your project contribute to a larger smart city vision?

A: Renewable energy generation is going to be a major part of the smart cities future, and through this project we are learning how to maximize the value of renewable energy through pairing it with battery storage, market signals, and smart inverters. This gives us the flexibility of deciding when and where we want to use this energy being produced by the sun. This project is directly in line with the City of Austin’s Smart City Roadmap by modernizing one of the most critical components of a city’s lifeblood, energy.

Q: Why is the implementation of your project transformational in our current society?

A: Energy storage improves the way we generate, deliver, and consume electricity. It helps during emergencies like power outages from storms, equipment failures, accidents or other unforeseen circumstances. The game-changing nature of energy storage is its ability to balance power supply and demand instantaneously, within milliseconds, which makes power networks more resilient, efficient and cleaner than ever before. Through this project, we are going to break into having more insight and optimization into our distributed energy resources like never before.

Q: What advice did you receive along the way that helped you complete your winning project?

A: Collaboration is key to achieving success in a project of this magnitude. Throughout the SHINES project, Austin Energy has collaborated with multiple levels of government, academia, industry, and the community to make this project a success so far. As we reach the demonstration phase of this project, we want to keep that collaboration going forward and get feedback on how we can make this solution even more scale-able and beneficial to the community.

Q: What advice would you give a city community or a solution provider looking to implement a municipal-level project?

A: Make sure that your project is in line with the wants and needs of the community. Sometimes, a new shiny product or project might be solving a problem that is not actually there yet. In Austin, our mission is to safely deliver clean, affordable, reliable energy and excellent customer service. The SHINES project hits on all of those tenants. Being a community owned utility, we also need to ensure that while we are providing value to the utility through new projects and initiatives that we are also providing value to the community.

Q: What does it mean to you to win the Smart 50 Awards?

A: Winning a Smart 50 Award is really a great honor and tribute to all of the hard work that the folks at Austin Energy are doing to pave the way for the energy future ahead of us. There are great projects and programs in place globally, and it means a lot to be a part of this esteemed group.