Is Innovation Due for the Texas Electricity Grid?

Texas, whilst typically acclaimed for its illustrious oil and gas industry, is actually the largest wind power producer in the country and boasts a burgeoning solar power sector. These developments, as well as the state’s copious natural gas resources courtesy of the shale boom, has put the state in a comfortable position in relation to meeting its carbon-cutting goals under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

In fact, a study released by the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund has found that the Clean Power Plan will have reasonably marginal impacts on the state because Texas is already on path to meet 88 percent of the carbon emission reduction goals by 2030.

However, rapidly increasing large amounts of renewable energy to the Texas grid bears difficulties – particularly because, as the proverbial saying goes, ‘the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow’. In relation to this, Texas-based researcher Paul Chu is endeavouring to combat these challenges by investigating enhanced, cheaper techniques for storing intermittent energy and releasing it when required.

With this intention, Chu is seeking to discover more efficient ways of storing excess magnetic energy in a superconducting coil. As founding director and chief scientist at the University of Houston’s Texas Center for Superconductivity, he is attributed with numerous revolutions in the sector that have delivered the technology closer to the market. Chu believes that energy storage could drive a metamorphosis of the Texas grid, essentially revolutionising it and adding to Texas’ advances in innovation. To elucidate, Chu articulates that “renewable energy doesn’t give you power at a constant rate — it fluctuates, depending on weather or other factors. The grid operates best when the flow of energy is constant. So you want to store energy, and then transmit it when you need it.”

Nevertheless, as is currently stands, storing renewable energy on a large scale across the grid in Texas is expensive, as is the processing cost of using superconducting material. Chu notes it’s hard to forecast when the storage will become economical, but can envision tentative forms of storage aiding Texas in meeting carbon-cutting goals under the federal Clean Power Plan. In fact, his centre is collaborating with the Nation Labs and industry in trying to make this a reality.

windrader-1048981_960_720Consequently, there is no denying that shifts in global developments, such as clean energy, are fuelling innovation across sectors.  Indeed, research such as Chu’s reveals that Texas is a unique energy market that has the ability to take great strides in innovation.  If your company is operating in the energy field and you have conducted research and development (R&D) activities to create innovative solutions or incentives, you may be eligible for the government’s R&D Tax Credit scheme. This does not necessarily involve experimenting in a white coat or conducting rocket science, rather, activities you may already be conducting may be eligible. Contact our qualified R&D Tax Specialists today to find out if you are suitable to apply for the tax savings.

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