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Electrical Micro-Grid in Colonia Using Renewable Energy

With funding from EPA, the TCEQ contracted with the Texas Engineering Experiment Station to implement a pilot project that provides electricity to a portion of an off-grid colonia in Webb County using renewable energy.

Project Description: Numerous colonias in the border region lack access to the electrical grid, and some residents purchase diesel-generator sets whose costs per kilowatt-hour are high and which emit air pollution that is proportionately large compared to traditional grid-powered electricity.

In 2008 TCEQ contracted with the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES, a unit of Texas A&M) to implement a pilot project using renewable energy-generated electricity in a micro-grid dedicated to a colonia. The expectation was that electricity would be generated at a significantly lower cost than that from small diesel-generator sets. For this project TEES partnered with a private company, Xtreme Power, which had developed a high-efficiency storage technology.

TEES selected a colonia in Webb County, obtained necessary approvals, and in mid-2009 worked with Xtreme Power to install a micro-grid in a small portion of the colonia, using bio-diesel for an appropriately sized generator set and also a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel, and serving nine homes.

This is a follow-up to a similar project that TEES has implemented in a different section of the same Webb County colonia with funding from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), which serves approximately 90 houses. That SECO-funded project uses a generator that runs on bio-diesel and also incorporates wind and solar PV technologies.

The spacing of homes in that first pilot project is low-density, and the relatively long distribution lines result in line losses that would not occur at the same level in a more dense community. The TCEQ-funded pilot project has applied a similar system to a more dense colonia. TEES is monitoring both projects to assess the technical and economic viability. If successful, the pilot projects will be models for commercial replication.

The Final Report Adobe Acrobat PDF Document on this project was issued in August 2010.