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Published on May 19th, 2019 | by Guest Contributor

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Texas Going Big On Renewables: Phase II Has Started

May 19th, 2019 by  


by TomTX

When a wind power discussion comes up, Texas is often mentioned. It’s not just that Texas has a lot of wind power. (It does.) It’s not just that Texas has a big, very isolated grid. (It does.*) There’s the oft-forgotten fact that when Texas started adopting wind power, it went from almost zero to the national leader in wind power in just 6 years!

Go way back to the year 2000, ignoring all that Y2K bug stuff. California is the undisputed far-and-away leader in wind power with well over half of the entire US capacity and roughly 9× as much wind power installed as Texas, which isn’t even second. It’s also far behind Minnesota and Iowa. General consensus is that California will remain the leader indefinitely.

Roll forward just 6 years to 2006. Texas has been on a massive construction boom and has just achieved the #1 slot with noticeably more wind power than newly demoted #2 California and noticeably more than #3 Minnesota and #4 Iowa combined. By 2007, Texas has more wind power than #2 California + #3 Minnesota combined.

Photo by Daxis (some rights reserved)

By 2008, Texas had more wind power than all three of them combined, and it’s remained in that ballpark ever since, with Texas generally having at least as much wind power as the next three states combined. Phase I complete.

Why the history lesson? To illustrate how Texas seizes the opportunity in the energy markets. The pattern was set with the first oil boom and really never has let up. Unfortunately for the climate, this also extends to oil & gas fracking today, but that’s a different article.

How do I know there is a seismic shift coming in the Texas electricity markets? Because the grid operator which covers ~90% of the usage in Texas is ERCOT, and ERCOT publishes lots of information on its website. It may be a bit challenging to find what you’re really looking for, but it’s well worth looking! ERCOT publishes a monthly Generation Interconnect Status (GIS) report. Sounds boring, right? Nope. You can see the direction the electricity market is headed well in advance.

The GIS crystal ball isn’t perfect – it’s actually kinda cloudy when it comes to what will actually get built instead of what companies want to build, but it is an excellent gauge of market sentiment. To be registered with ERCOT means that there is money behind a potential project, not just pie-in-the-sky dreaming.

Let’s look at the April 2018 and 2019 GIS reports:

Report Date

April 2018

April 2019

Combined Cycle Natural Gas

8 GW

3 GW

Turbine Natural Gas (peakers)

5 GW

6.5 GW

Storage (battery + compressed air)

0.3 GW

4 GW

Wind

33 GW

36 GW

Solar

25 GW

55 GW

Did you notice the shifts in the market? Lets break it down:

First, the big one: planned solar projects are more than double, and have blown way past wind projects, which are only up about 10%. Side note: California has around 25 GW of installed solar power. Texas has over twice that in planned projects, plus the ~3 GW currently installed.

Second: Despite having a vast oversupply of fracked gas in-state, planned construction of natural gas power is down, especially natural gas that expects to run most of the time (combined cycle) – leaving mostly peaker plants with an expected ~10% capacity factor.

Third: Storage is coming, in a big way. Combined, the planned projects are 40×(!!) the size of the Tesla “big battery” (Hornsdale Power Reserve) in Australia.

When you think about it, #2 and #3 come naturally once you accept #1 is happening — massively more solar and continued strong wind installs will mean less need for continuous fossil fuel burning, and more need for short-term supply like peaker plants and batteries.

When is all this happening? ERCOT is projecting it to be mostly coming online in 2020–2021. There’s a definite uptick in solar in 2019, but the big growth is about to hit next year.

Texas solar reminds me an awful lot of Texas wind power in 2000: California has ~9× as much as Texas, but the winds (ha!) have shifted, and Texas is in the starting blocks for making a strong run at being #1 in renewable electricity production. Again.

Anyone think that Texas won’t be the #1 state for installed solar by 2025?

*ERCOT has very few connections to outside grids, total transfer is around a quarter percent of usage – and most of the connection is to the SPP, which has an even higher percentage of wind power! Why is it isolated? To avoid federal regulation.

Resources:

TomTX is a clean energy enthusiast with interest in clean air, clean water, BEVs, eliminating carbon emissions and generally keeping the Earth habitable.

 
 





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