SAN ANTONIO - In just a few weeks, CPS Energy will be running and maintaining its first solar power farm.
KSAT got an exclusive look at the 50-acre farm off Highway 151 near Pinn Road. James Boston, manager of marketing and intelligence for CPS Energy, walked us through how the facility will operate and the unique opportunity it will give the company to learn and possibly build new farms in the near future.
“This is a stepping stone in teaching our crew how to operate in that future world and offer the type of energy production that San Antonio needs,” Boston said.
There are 17,000 panels that will be up and running producing power by this summer. It's a $16.3 million partnership between CPS Energy and Southwest Research Institute, which owns the land where the farm is built.
The system is set up to ensure that the plant continues to provide power, even if there are issues with some parts of the equipment. Cables will be running above ground instead of underground, and there are 40 individual inverters instead of three large ones, as it is at some farms.
This is the first facility CPS Energy will own and operate. Boston said it will allow the crews to learn and make changes at future solar farm sites.
The facility has four battery storage containers that will help the energy company store power to release during peak energy use.
“When the sun is not shining, it’s just not there, so energy storage is an important gap filler,” Boston said.
The storage containers are made up of about 31 racks containing small batteries. Each one can power about 400 homes.
Four batteries are comparable in size to a railroad stock car and can store enough power for one hour of electrical use during peak hours for more than 1,000 homes. The speed at which the power is put out has awed engineers.
“Last week, when we did our site acceptance testing, we saw the battery in action and how fast it operated and responded to the commands. For an engineer, that was a very exciting moment,” Boston said.
The plant and equipment are expected to produce solar power for more than 20 years.
Boston said it’s exciting to be a part of the first phase of what he expects will be many more diverse energy production options.
“It’s going to be exciting to be a part of the project team that’s part of a system like this, that 20 years from now, when this system is out and operating, we’ll all be able to say we were there at that moment,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how this is going to fit in our flexible path.”
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