Additions this year to the ERCOT grid in Texas are expected to be dominated by ⅔ from wind and solar PV, according to energy research from SNL. If SNL research proves true, this will be a huge boost to the generation of renewable electricity within this historic oil-producing state.
As Christian Roselund has written for pv magazine, “This is the beginning of a boom anticipated in Texas over the next 15 years.”
In spite of its abundant sunshine and massive open spaces, Texas has long trailed in the US solar market, a trend now changing, ElectricityPolicy concludes:
“Solar is poised to take off in Texas,” Peter Sopher, a policy analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, told the Dallas News. He compared it with wind power a decade ago, when wind generated 1.4% of the ERCOT system’s electricity. For the first 11 months of 2015, wind’s share was over 11%. And in November, it was over 18%. For a warm, sunny state, Texas has been lagging in solar, as it lacks the incentives of some states and has an abundant supply of cheap energy, including natural gas. But prices for solar panels have fallen over 80% since 2009, making solar competitive with fossil fuels. Last year, solar installations on ERCOT grew almost 50%. This year, solar generation could jump six-fold, by ERCOT projections. If proposed rules to cut emissions and haze remain in place, ERCOT estimates solar will add 14 GW to the ERCOT grid by 2030—and that projection came before last month’s federal budget deal, which extended tax creditsfor renewable energy. Last summer, Austin Energy signed solar power agreements for less than 4 ¢/kWh, hailed at the time as “the cheapest solar ever.” January 14, 2016″
ERCOT is a separate grid from the other two US grids, covering most of Texas’ territory and 85% of the state’s demand. Demand on the ERCOT grid has traditionally been met mostly with gas- and coal-fired generation. Although, in recent years, wind has met more than 10% of annual electric demand, pv magazine has reported.
But this year, a number of significant solar projects are under construction, led by those under power contracts awarded by municipal utilities in Austin and San Antonio. Austin Energy has signed contracts for 600 MW of solar PV, which has yet to be completed, and OCI Solar Power had scheduled to complete 400 MW of solar PV for CPS Energy by the end of the year.
At this time, solar still only represent an estimated 2% of ERCOT generation capacity by the end of the year.
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