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Houston clean energy company goes online with Hawaii facility

Plus Power has announced its Oahu, Hawaii, facility is up and running. Photo via pluspower.com

Houston-based Plus Power announced it has begun operating a new facility on Oahu, Hawaii.

The Kapolei Energy Storage, or KES, facility is “the most advanced grid-scale battery energy storage system in the world,” which will help transition the state's electric power from coal and oil to solar and wind, according to the company.

The KES battery project is located on 8 acres of industrial land on the southwest side of Oahu near Honolulu, and will use 158 Tesla Megapack 2 XL lithium iron phosphate batteries. It will offer the grid 185 megawatts of total power capacity and 565 megawatt-hours of electricity. This will act as an electrical "shock absorber" that will be served by combustion-powered peaker plants to respond in 250 milliseconds according to Power Plus.

"This is a landmark milestone in the transition to clean energy," Brandon Keefe, Plus Power's executive chairman, says in a news release. "It's the first time a battery has been used by a major utility to balance the grid: providing fast frequency response, synthetic inertia, and black start. This project is a postcard from the future — batteries will soon be providing these services, at scale, on the mainland."

The KES plant interconnects three of Hawaiian Electric's critical power generation facilities, which can enable KES to support the reboot of power plants in the event of a state-wide emergency.The KES batteries will help replace the grid capacity formerly provided by an AES coal power plant.

By June 2024, Plus Power aims to operate seven large-scale battery energy storage plants across Arizona and Texas. Last year, the company secured $1.8 billion in new financing for a handful of ongoing projects — most of which are in Texas.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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