Quidnet Energy has entered into a strategic partnership with Hunt Energy Network, and the two Texas companies will work on a build-transfer program for 300 MW of storage projects in Texas. Photo via quidnetenergy.com

A Houston-based company that's developing long-duration energy storage solutions announced a $10 million investment and partnership with a Texas corporation.

Quidnet Energy has entered into a strategic partnership with Hunt Energy Network, an affiliate of Dallas-based Hunt Energy that develops and operates distributed energy resources. The two Texas companies will work on a build-transfer program for 300 MW of storage projects that uses Quidnet's Geomechanical Energy Storage technology in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid operating region.

“Hunt Energy Network brings an extensive and proven track record across diverse energy businesses, making them an ideal partner to address the need for large-scale, long-duration energy storage in Texas,” Joe Zhou, CEO of Quidnet Energy, says in a news release. “We’re thrilled to have them as an investor, partner, and board member, and we look forward to jointly advancing the deployment of energy storage solutions, particularly in regions like ERCOT where the need is most pressing.”

Todd Benson, the chief innovation officer of Hunt Energy, will join Quidnet's board of directors as a part of the partnership.

“Quidnet Energy's GES technology presents a unique opportunity to revolutionize energy storage, and we’re excited to invest in a solution that purposefully transforms existing resources to expand access to long-duration storage,” adds Pat Wood, III, CEO of HEN. “ERCOT's growing supply of renewable energy makes this region ideal for the deployment of our technology, and we’re pleased to work with another Texas innovator to build a more resilient grid for all ERCOT customers.”

Quidnet’s technology, which can provide over 10 hours of storage, uses drilling and hydropower machinery to store renewable energy. Essentially, the company, founded in 2013, is using water storage to power carbon-free electric grid approach to energy.

One year ago, Quidnet secured $10 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E. Just a few months after that, the company received an additional $2 million from the DOE for its project, entitled "Energy Storage Systems for Overpressure Environments," which is taking place in East Texas.

In Texas last month, coal use dropped and solar energy soared, according to a new report. Photo via Pexels

Report: Solar tops coal in Texas for energy generation for the first time

by the numbers

For the first time in Texas, according to a recent report, solar energy generation surpassed the output by coal.

The report — from the Institute For Energy Economics and Financial Analysis — sourced the Energy Information Administration’s hourly grid monitor for March 2024. This shift in a predominantly oil and gas dominated history of Texas energy output, was due to solar power’s 3.26 million megawatt-hours to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid, compared to coal’s 2.96 million MWh.

In addition, coal’s market share fell below 10 percent to 9 percent for the first time ever, to just over 9 percent. The increase in solar energy pushed solar’s share of ERCOT generation to more than 10 percent for the month, which was also a first.

Due to its sheer size, Texas is the No.1 state for solar capacity. According to the report from SmartAsset, the Lone Star State has the most clean energy capacity at 56,405 megawatts, but continues to trail states with similar geographic characteristics in overall clean energy prevalence.

Texas only 38 percent of the state’s electricity capacity comes from clean electricity, and it has the second-largest solar capacity, which means Texas has the most means, space, and potential to accommodate cleaner electricity. Texas as a whole, ranked No. 22 on the list for states with the most clean energy in the SmartAsset report.

In Texas, generation in March 2024 was 1.17 million MWh more year-over-year, which is a 56 percent increase. ERCOT data shows that the system currently has 22,710 megawatts (MW) of operational solar capacity according to IEEFA, and is expected to expand by almost one-third by the end of 2024 with an additional 7,168 MW of capacity added. The number just considers Texas solar projects that have set aside the financing required to get onto the ERCOT grid and that have a signed interconnection agreement.

Texas burned 50.7 million tons of coal for electricity, which was 13 percent of the U.S. total in 2023 according to the EIA grid monitor. Coal's annual share of ERCOT demand ranged from 36 percent to 40 percent from 2003 through 2014. The last year percent. In 2020, coal was under 20 percent in 2020; and was less than 15 percent in 2023 supplying just 13.9 percent of the system’s total demand.

The IEEFA notes coal’s low March production is important because in recent years it has been the moderate temperatures of April and May and steady winds that have affected the usage and the market share.

The GridStor project will boost the Electric Reliability Council of Texas grid. It’s GridStor’s first acquisition in ERCOT territory. Photo via gridstor.com

Oregon energy storage company plans 450-megawatt facility in Galveston County

coming soon

An Oregon startup has purchased a 450-megawatt battery energy storage project in Galveston County.

GridStor, a Portland, Oregon-based developer and operator of battery energy storage systems, bought the project from Moab, Utah-based Balanced Rock Power. The Utah company develops utility-scale solar and energy storage projects.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

GridStor, founded in 2022, is backed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management. The Portland Business Journal reported last November that Goldman Sachs had raised a $410 million fund to fuel its energy storage strategy.

Construction on the Evelyn Battery Energy Storage project is scheduled to get underway this summer, with the system projected to go online in the spring of 2025.

“Battery storage is a scalable and near-term solution to powering historic load growth in Texas,” Chris Taylor, CEO of GridStor, says in a news release. “Every day, batteries are consistently providing energy to stabilize the power system and meet hours of greatest demand in the state.”

The GridStor project will boost the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid. It’s GridStor’s first acquisition in ERCOT territory.

The project will be built near the Hidden Lakes substation, which is owned by Texas-New Mexico Power, which now just serves Texas. This proximity will enable batteries to quickly begin grid-connected operations.

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Houston company expands JV to build new power generation, storage assets

team work

Houston-based Conduit Power is broadening the scope of its joint venture with Oklahoma City-based Riley Exploration Permian.

Under this deal, the joint venture, RPC Power, will build power generation and storage assets for the sale of energy and related services to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the power grid for the bulk of Texas.

RPC Power, established in March 2023, owns and operates power generation assets that use Riley Permian’s natural gas to power its oilfield operations in Yoakum County, located in West Texas.

The expanded relationship will enable RPC Power to sell power and related services to ERCOT, with plans for 100 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation and battery energy storage systems across facilities in West Texas. The facilities are expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

In conjunction with the expanded scope, Riley Permian bumped up its stake in RPC Power from 35 percent to 50 percent. Furthermore, it plans to sell up to 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to RPC Power as feedstock supply for the new generation facilities.

"Our JV expansion at RPC Power represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are proud to build upon our successful partnership with Riley Permian,” Travis Windholz, managing director of Conduit, says in a news release.

Conduit, a portfolio company of private equity firm Grey Rock Investment Partners, designs, builds, and operates distributed power generation systems.

Riley Exploration Permian specializes in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves, primarily within the Permian Basin.

Elon Musk sees more resistance against his multibillion dollar pay package

just say no

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled about 30% this year.

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package. Shares at the time were up 571% since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9% fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Things to know: $17.5B oil acquisition, new accelerator focuses on sustainability, and more in Houston energy

take note

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a podcast episode with a biotech leader, a very big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.


Big deal: ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $17.B in all-stock deal

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion as energy prices rise and big oil companies reap massive profits.

The deal to combine the two Houston-headquartered companies is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt.

Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. Oil majors put up record profits after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and while those numbers have slipped, there has been a surge in mergers between energy companies flush with cash. Continue reading.

Podcast to stream: Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about." Continue reading.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.