Tesla has secretly constructed a huge battery facility in Texas, part of what appears to be an attempt to add power storage to the state pummeled with bad weather in February. Texas’ electric grid was reportedly hours from collapse at one point, as freezing temperatures saw electricity demand soar and rolling outages take vast swathes of the state offline for days.
It proved to be a wake-up call for energy provisions in Texas, especially as power companies began passing on ridiculously high peak charges to customers. Electricity bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars were reported by some, as power companies found themselves relying on suddenly extortionately expensive natural gas and other energy sources.
Tesla has long positioned its stationary power products as being ideal for situations like those. Exponentially larger than the battery packs found in Tesla vehicles, the units act as a temporary store for electricity. Much as a Tesla Powerwall can save power in a domestic environment – whether from solar or cheaply off-peak from the grid – when it’s plentiful, and then supply it again during outages or periods of peak pricing, Tesla Energy’s large scale installations could do the same for towns or even cities.
Several such projects were known to be underway – including in Los Angeles, CA, and in South Australia – but a new installation has been spotted in Texas. Registered as Gambit Energy Storage LLC, Bloomberg reports, the Tesla Subsidiary is located in Angleton, roughly 40 miles south of Houston. It’s positioned next to a Texas-New Mexico Power substation.
The facility is equipped with more than 100 megawatts of storage, it’s said. Bloomberg estimates that an installation of that size could keep around 20,000 average homes powered up “on a hot summer day.”
According to Ercot, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the Gambit battery could go into commercial operations on June 1. Tesla didn’t begin the project itself, however. It’s believed to have purchased the Gambit facility from Plus Power.
Elon Musk recently relocated to Texas, moving from California as Tesla and SpaceX ramp up business activities in the state. That doesn’t mean he’s been universally positive about his new home, however. Indeed, during the outages he was vocal on Twitter about how poorly Texas’ energy companies were handling the crisis. At the time, Tesla’s involvement in the Gambit facility was not common knowledge.
Battery backup is increasingly common around the grid, as energy companies make provisions for downed cables or unseasonable demand. However most such facilities are significantly smaller than those Tesla Energy is working on. Part of their charm is that they can be electricity-source agnostic, capturing spare power from traditional coal or gas generation, or from green sources like solar and wind. Texas has some installations of the latter, initially erroneously blamed for the state’s energy troubles in February, though it was later identified as primarily issues with fossil fuel power stations that left so many Texans without electricity.