Texas A&M University System planning to create power network to help Texas energy grid

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, TX – The Texas A&M University System is making plans to create a peaker power network on system-owned lands to help stabilize the Texas energy grid in times of peak demand.

KEY POINTS

  • Peaker power plants will only run during times of peak energy demand
  • Texas legislators and private developers approached the Texas A&M System and asked if they would offer up system lands for the project
  • Texas A&M-San Antonio will be considered a potential site due to a gas line present on the land the campus resides on
  • This network will be built in response to the Texas Energy Fund passed in November 2023
  • Main goal is to prevent blackouts and brownouts as well as provide an alternate source of energy when renewable energy sources are low

In a news release sent out in late May, officials defined “peakers” as “power plants typically used to provide electricity during periods of peak demand.” They will only operate during times of high demand and are designed to help prevent blackouts. They will run off gas and provide an alternate source of power when renewable energy resources like wind and solar are low.

The Texas A&M System offered up its properties in response to the creation of the Texas Energy Fund. Under that fund, which was passed in November 2023, grants and loans have been made available to help finance the construction and maintenance of electric facilities in the State of Texas.

I had the honor of talking to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who said that Texas legislators and developers contacted him after the Texas Energy Fund was passed. They asked if the Texas A&M System would consider offering system-owned lands to serve as sites for these peaker power plants.

“We had several people come to us, and said with all of the campuses that the Texas A&M University System has, and all of the property we have all over the state, ‘Why don’t you offer that up?’ We said ‘Great, it’s A) a wonderful public service to try and solve this particular problem, and B) certainly something that helps our individual campuses where some of those are chosen,’” Sharp said.

Meteorologist Mia Montgomery sits down with Chancellor John Sharp to talk about the early stages of the peaker power plant network. (KSAT)

Speaking of individual campuses, Texas A&M-San Antonio may be a contender to house one of these peaker power plants in the future, due largely in part to the size of the land that the campus currently sits on, and also because of a natural gas line that already exists on that land.

“The utility line that it intersects is the perfect place for a peaker plant. There is a gas line that runs right through there, there are power lines that are also very close to that, so you know there’s about 600 acres back there that could be possible,” Sharp said.

Exact sites have not yet been chosen, but this will be something that the Public Utilities Commission takes into consideration when designating which Texas A&M System-owned lands will be used for this network.

Sharp said that the Texas A&M University System continues to be in talks with people involved within ERCOT and Texas legislators as they all come together to make this project a reality.

“Our main job as the Texas A&M System is public service. Whether it’s educating children or whether it’s working with disasters and all of the disaster relief things that we do, we and our board of regents view this as a service that we can provide the State of Texas, and something that’s good for the communities that our campuses are embedded in,” Sharp said.

This project is still in the very early stages of development, with many specific details not yet available. We will continue to keep you posted as the development phases begin.

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