With the Texas grid continuing to make a poor showing, it’s little surprise that a major US food and beverage distributor says it will microgrid its Dallas facility.
Ben E. Keith Company has commissioned Texas-based Enchanted Rock to install a natural gas-fired microgrid for a beverage distribution facility. The microgrid is expected to begin operating in the first quarter of 2023, and the company’s food division is already talking to Enchanted Rock about expansion.
“Though efforts have been made towards improving the quality and reliability of our electric utility, we want to be prepared for any future outage that may occur at this location and protect ourselves against potential business shutdowns due to utility loss,” said Jon Thompson, vice president of operations for Ben. E. Keith Beverages. “We were attracted to Enchanted Rock by their track record of helping other major Texas operations maintain power while others experienced outages and operational interruptions. In addition to increased resilience, we are excited by the cleaner and quieter performance of these natural gas generators.”
When the microgrids are not being used by their hosts, they can supply service to the grid, creating a revenue stream to help offset their costs. Enchanted Rock’s microgrids, for example, provided capacity to the grid in February 2021 when Winter Storm Uri brought the state’s electric system to a near collapse.
Texas grid operator calls for conservation
More recently, the Texas grid has been lumbering under severe heat and the high use of air conditioning, causing a tightening of what the grid’s operator, ERCOT, considers a safe margin between demand and supply. As a result, on both July 11 and July 13, the grid operator called on electricity customers to conserve power.
While there has been no sweeping grid outage this summer like the one the state experienced during Winter Storm Uri, businesses and households have reported localized outages in Houston, Dallas and other areas during the heat wave. As a television weather forecaster this week warned of the potential for power outages, his Houston studio lost power twice.
The food industry is especially vulnerable to power outages because food requires cold storage. In addition, industry facilities are highly automated, and outages as short as five minutes can cause long and expensive production delays. In some cases, processing plants need to be shut down and thoroughly cleaned each time they lose power, even if it’s only for a few minutes, to ensure food safety.
“We want to make sure this iconic company can focus on their nationally respected distribution operations without having to worry about power outages,” said Ken Cowan, senior vice president of sales at Enchanted Rock.
Track news about microgrid projects being built on the Texas grid. Subscribe to the free Microgrid Knowledge Newsletter.