H E B considers adding microgrid technology to San Antonio area stores

Natural gas-fired generators that are keeping the lights on at H-E-B Grocery Co. stores in the Houston area may soon come to the retail grocer’s Alamo City locations.

CPS Energy officials confirmed that H-E-B and Houston-based microgrid company Enchanted Rock Ltd. are seeking approval to add the generators to stores in San Antonio.

The application is under review by CPS Energy, and if approved, the city-owned utility company would supply natural gas to backup generators that will be installed at 25 area H-E-B stores, along with a local bakery and distribution center.

Over the past year, Enchanted Rock installed natural gas generators at 18 H-E-B stores in the Houston area. Massive flooding and wind damage caused by Hurricane Harvey knocked out power to large areas of the Bayou City, but the microgrid technology has enabled the stores to operate in an “island mode” independent of the power grid.

Enchanted Rock CEO Thomas McAndrew told the Business Journal that Harvey served as a “proof of concept” for the technology.

The generators installed in Houston “provide 100 percent of a store’s power,” McAndrew said. “You can’t tell the difference between being on generation or being on utility.”

CPS Energy officials declined to comment further on H-E-B’s proposed microgrid projects, stating that the company’s application remains under review. Nonetheless, the request comes at a time when microgrids are growing in popularity. The distributed power systems can generate electricity in tandem with or independent of the main power grid.

In San Antonio, military officials installed a solar-powered microgrid at Fort Sam Houston designed to charge batteries that provide electricity the base’s library in the event of a power failure.

San Antonio-based OCI Solar Power is also developing a portable solar farm that will be tested to generate electricity for equipment in the oil fields of South Texas.

Originally published in San Antonio Business Journal