by Victor Lopez
PRESIDIO--It's the first of it's kind in Texas and the largest in the United States. Once it's complete, it will make chronic power outages in Presidio, a thing of the past.
It's already getting national attention. NewsWest 9 got a first hand look at what experts are calling a new spin on an old technology.
"This is the newest battery technology in the world. We've taken it to Presidio, one of the oldest cities in the state of Texas," Stephen Foster with Electric Transmission Texas, LLC., said.
The town of Presidio got it's name in 1830, but it's been around since way before then. It wasn't until the 20th century, 1948 to be exact, that it got electricity from nearby Marfa, almost 60 miles away.
According to Foster, "The line has been repaired, added to, built up, repaired during lighting strikes, and is now in a position where we're sending a radial feed, feeding in excess of 5,000 people down here and we need good, reliable power."
A radial feed means there is only one source of electrical power coming in to the area. Presidio suffers frequent power outages for many different reasons.
"You're out 4, 6, 12 hours because you have no other source of feed other than the power from Ojinaga. It takes approximately 2 hours, at this time, to swap and bring power onto the line and onto the system, so we can support the locals," Foster explained.
That's where the NAS Battery comes in.
The NAS battery gets it's name from elements on the periodic chart, Na for sodium and S for sulphur. When the two elements come together, they create a power supply similar to a Universal Power System behind your computer, providing the city of Presidio with an almost uninterrupted source of power.
"(It's) 4 mega watts of storage to provide temporary backup power, operational power to run the city for approximately 6-8 hours," Foster said.
The NAS Battery is simply four, one mega watt batteries, each with the equivalent of 360 "AA" batteries inside.
With a price tag of $8 million for just the batteries, what will it cost to operate the system?
Foster says, "This is an unmanned station. The actual, operational control for this building is in Corpus Christi, Texas."
Maybe there is an advantage to being out in the middle of the Mexican desert after all.
"The reason we put these batteries here was to provide a more continuous and a safer operation for the city and the area around Presidio," Foster said.
The project started in August of 2008 and should be 100% complete before the end of the summer.