As worries mount over Texas grid, major beverage distributor commissions Enchanted Rock microgrid

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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.”

beverage distributor

Ben E. Keith’s Dallas beverage distribution facility. Courtesy of Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock has installed several microgrids in Texas over the years — many related to the food industry —that have kept the lights on during severe heat, cold and hurricanes that have caused widespread power outages.  

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

texas grid

Credit: Twitter.com

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.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. “Ben E. Keith Company has commissioned Texas-based Enchanted Rock to install a natural gas-fired microgrid for a beverage distribution facility.”

    In February of 2021 the three day ice storm affected much of the natural gas generation facilities in the Texas ERCOT sphere of influence. Even with your own natural gas turbine, there is no certainty that another ice storm won’t affect the natural gas supply and pressure to your gas turbine.

    “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.”

    The problem here is not necessarily natural gas fueled generation online, but constrictions between the many electric entities under the ERCOT umbrella. This company could use the microgrid for grid services (IF) it can get the generation services into a non-restrictive grid connection. I believe Texas needs a cohesive well interconnected electric grid between electrical entities running under ERCOT. Without a robust interconnection with regional distributed energy storage online, it is just a weak cobbled together grid that will fail like the old story of the “little Dutch boy” trying to foil disaster by sticking his fingers in the leaks in the dike.