Learning the Lesson: Texas Grid Moving Faster to Clean Energy, Storage

February 17, 2022

PV Magazine:

The final report by FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation said that issues with the natural gas supply caused 87% of the outages as wells and pipelines froze and uninsulated gas plants failed to function. An additional challenge is the unique Texas electrical grid, which stands alone. The grids that supply electricity to most of the country are controlled by FERC, whereas the Texas grid is regulated by Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a non-profit corporation regulated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. Had Texas been interconnected to grids in other states, it may have been possible to bring power to the storm-stricken areas. According to a Grid Strategies report, an additional 1GW of transmission ties between the ERCOT grid and that governed by FERC in Southeastern US could have saved nearly $1 billion, while keeping the heat on for hundreds of thousands of Texans.

In 2020 Texas ranked number two for solar installations in the country, and at the time of the storm a total of 6,349MW of solar capacity was installed on Texas rooftops or in utility-scale installations across the state.

According to a white paper “Rooftop solar and the 2021 Texas power crisis”, recently released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, if Texas’s full rooftop solar potential had been tapped, devastation from the February 2021 freeze would have been lessened.

The research estimates that the technical potential for rooftop solar generation in Texas is 97,800MW – more than 15 times the total installed capacity at the time of the 2021 power crisis. The report notes that power production fell short of forecast demand on 13 days last February and it estimates that on 11 of those days, rooftop solar could have supplied more than enough power to meet the daily shortfall gap.

In addition to the need for rooftop solar, Uri pointed out the need for adding storage to the mix. Sean Gallagher, SEIA vice president of state and regulatory said that solar and storage “will be a big part of the solution” in Texas. Vibrant Clean Energy, released a white paper on the storm impacts on the ERCOT electricity grid, and it studied a hypothetical ERCOT grid with a high penetration of renewables. It concludes that the variability of wind and solar would still persist in the future, but the modeling added 40,000MW of storage to the grid, which was found to be enough to cover all of the blackout requirements with room to spare.

Ironically, while Texas is the prototypical state government captured by the oil and gas industry, which has dictated that the Texas grid is structured to be as market driven as possible, certainly more so than any other among states
The downside is that there were no requirements for ERCOT to have “spinning reserve”, or reserve power plants for events exactly like the freeze last year. On the other hand, it’s a microcosm of the global market place where renewable clean energy has completely overtaken traditional fossil fuel power.

Inside Climate News:

In the race to build renewable energy projects in 2021, Texas lapped the competition.

The state had 7,352 megawatts of new wind, solar and energy storage projects come online during the year, according to a report issued this weekby the American Clean Power Association, a trade group.

The runner-up, California, brought 2,697 megawatts online.

But what got my attention wasn’t Texas’ dominance in 2021. It was that Texas also is the leader when ranking the states on how much wind, solar and storage they have under construction or in advanced development; Texas has 19,918 megawatts, followed in the distance by California, with 13,663 megawatts.

Texas can claim, with ample evidence, to be the renewable energy capital of the United States. This is despite also being the fossil fuel capital of the United States, and having political leaders who go out of their way to defer to oil and gas.

Joshua Rhodes of the University of Texas at Austin told me that the state’s rise as a renewable energy leader is notable because it happened almost completely because of the low costs of renewable energy, not because of concerns about climate change.

“We’re doing this because it makes financial sense,” he said. “As long as it continues to make financial sense, we’ll do it.”

But there is some altruism. Many of the energy buyers contributing to the boom in wind and solar development in Texas are large corporations that are trying to meet their own goals for relying on clean energy and reducing emissions.

2 Responses to “Learning the Lesson: Texas Grid Moving Faster to Clean Energy, Storage”

  1. Keith McClary Says:

    OffTopic (and trying to get commenting to work)

    Clean-energy discourse from energy giants not reflected in investments

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Yeah, follow the money.

      The money made off of natgas market pricing during the Feb 2021 freeze in Texas is definitely an incentive for Business As Usual for them.

      Texas, the One Star State

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