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Austin SHINES as it goes into its final phase of local solar energy

Friday, June 1, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

Austin Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar Photovoltaics, a solar energy generation and storage project that has garnered a fair amount of national attention, is edging toward its final testing phase that is set to begin in October. Even as it is reaching the light at the end of the tunnel, the project, also known as Austin SHINES, was recently given the green light to integrate a new experimental form of solar energy storage: electric vehicles. At the May 23 meeting of the Austin Energy Electric Utility Oversight Committee, Austin Energy Vice President Dan Smith told committee members: “We just got approval to add a vehicle to grid into this program.” The idea, Smith explained, is to use electric vehicles like portable battery packs that can be used as storage devices until they are plugged into the system.

Austin Energy’s ambitious SHINES project cost $11.5 million, but Smith noted that nearly half of that bill was footed by grants; out of all recipients, Austin Energy received the largest grant amount awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy last year for this initiative. Furthermore, unlike other solar battery projects in the nation, Smith said, “there are really none that are cross-cutting the use cases between commercial, (city utilities) and residential.” According to him, once SHINES is fully operational, the project will generate enough energy to catapult Austin one-third of the way to its 10-megawatt goal of renewable energy as stated in the Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan passed by City Council. The success, he noted, will then allow the Austin utility to “use this to form our future road map.”

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