Commercial, Distributed Energy Resources, Microgrids  -  August 31, 2017

Backup systems enable H-E-B resiliency amid Harvey

Utilizing recently installed backup power systems fed by underground natural gas pipelines, San Antonio-based grocery store chain H-E-B has been able to keep many of its Houston-area stores open and able to offer disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. 

According to news reports, as of Aug. 30, approximately 60 H-E-B stores were open in the area. The company has also been sending emergency response teams with bottled water, food and supplies to communities and shelters affected by the storm, according to an H-E-B news release

The company has been using the systems, which incorporate a natural gas-powered microgrid design, over the past year, Power Magazine reported Aug. 29, as part of an agreement with backup power systems company Enchanted Rock. The microgrids are fed natural gas from underground pipelines not impacted by flooding or winds, according to the magazine.

 H-E-B reportedly made the decision to deploy the solution after being challenged by the impacts of previous storms. The publication quoted Enchanted Rock CEO Thomas McAndrew as saying the grocer has a commitment to keep as many stores open as possible during these events.

"After those previous storms, those guys said 'That's enough, we need to have a way to have power generation permanently installed,'" McAndrew told the magazine. 

In July, George Presses, vice president of fuel and energy at H-E-B had said in a statement announcing the solution: "We are in need of a reliable backup power system that will keep our stores up and running without any interruption to our partners, customers or communities due to a weather event or a general, short term grid outage."

Resiliency has become a major issue for commercial and industrial companies, and grocery stores in particular, in recent years following the devasting impacts of hurricanes and other extreme weather events. 

Note: This article was amended Sept. 5 to more accurately describe the systems used by H-E-B, which incorporate microgrid-like characteristics. 

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