The Hunt community is facing a challenge, as have many other Texas towns and cities: the loss of property via eminent domain for the installation of power lines through our neighborhoods. The difference in our case is Hunt does not need the new connection; it already has double redundancy in place. 

The Lower Colorado River Authority proposal to build new transmission lines is for the purpose of connecting substations in Harper and Hunt or Ingram with a new substation in Mountain Home. A long transmission line reaching about 40 miles southwest from Harper needs a second source for improved reliability, and projected population growth around Mountain Home will increase demand.

None of us here in West Kerr County is happy with the idea of new poles and lines marring the view from our homes in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, but we have gradually become convinced that something does need to be done.

While educating ourselves about the basis of the project, however, we learned that new transmission lines were not the only, or even the best way, to address the problem.

Battery storage has been the recent beneficiary of technical improvement and significant cost reductions. Not only would it be much cheaper than new transmission lines, it brings additional advantages to the system. 

It provides that second source needed to reduce outage impacts. It reduces peak loads.  Applied broadly and intelligently throughout the system, storage will defer the need for new generation or transmission lines for from three to five years, a tremendous saving for Texans. Finally, considering that ERCOT is investing heavily in solar and wind generation, battery storage is the ideal way to condition power from these intermittent sources to serve a steady demand. 

In sum, an aggressive battery storage program would result in lower electricity costs and better service for all Texans connected to ERCOT’s circuits. It could also open the door for the integration of much more widespread small-scale solar and wind generation into the grid.

Installation of battery storage would be a vastly better solution to the problem faced by LCRA than new transmission lines.

But until recently Texas law actually forbid the use of battery storage in this way. A bill in the Texas Legislature, SB1012, was passed by both chambers with veto-proof majorities and has been sent to the governor. 

With his signature the law will go into effect on September 1 and will no longer require a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative that owns or operates electric energy storage equipment or facilities to register as a power generation company. This will end the absurd classification of electrical storage as a form of generation. Representative Andrew Murr provided his support and encouragement to us during this legislative process, for which we are duly grateful.

We understand that these changes to the regulations controlling the development of the Texas grid will require some significant adjustments on the part of all members of the industry. But surely it is not the role of our legislators to protect selected business enterprises to the detriment of all the citizens of our great state. 

All Texans should acquaint themselves in this matter, and demand that their representatives work on their behalf and not just for selected companies.

What began as a “not in my backyard” fight has become a solution for many other neighborhoods like ours that will benefit from the installation of battery storage rather than the proliferation of more transmission lines.

Hunt residents will be meeting Wednesday afternoon, May 29, in Fredericksburg with Central Texas Electric Cooperative representatives Bob Loth, Mitch Elmore and Mark Hahn and a lawyer representing LCRA, Kurt Rasmussen, to ask that the Mountain Home Transmission Project be stopped or at least delayed pending the enactment of this new legislation.

 

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