Renewables Outpaced Gas in Texas in Early 2022

April 27, 2022

Houston Chronicle:

Wind and solar power accounted for a record 34 percent of electricity generation within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, outperforming the state’s fleet of combined-cycle gas turbines as the dominant source of electricity during the first three months of 2022, according to a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Wind turbines and solar panels produced about 32.3 million megawatt hours in the quarter, compared to 29.7 million megawatt hours churned out by the combined cycle gas turbines. The pattern is similar to last year, when renewables outproduced combined cycle gas turbines in the first four months of 2021, thanks in part to seasonally lower demand and higher wind output.

Renewables have already outpaced coal-produced power in the state, first edging it out in March 2015. Renewables only did so two other times until 2019, when they out-generated coal for seven months and overall during the entire year.

“The transition that first saw renewables catch and then pass coal-fired generation is now on the horizon for gas,” Wamstead wrote. “As with the coal experience, the shift won’t be immediate. Wind generated more electricity than coal in a month for the first time in 2016 but it wasn’t until 2019 that wind and solar together finally topped coal.”

Renewable power generation, especially solar, is expected to keep growing. Solar doubled its generating capacity in 2021, jumping to 8,274 megawatts at the end of the year. So far this year, it’s climbed nearly 26 percent to 11,190 megawatts, and ERCOT officials estimate it could climb another 54 percent compared to the end of 2021 to 18,000 megawatts by the end of this year.

Still, solar made up a small portion of the grid’s power. It accounted for about 5 percent of the power on ERCOT in the first quarter of this year. Wind accounted for more than 29 percent, while combined cycle gas turbines were 31 percent.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:

Looking at the grid’s overall demand does provide some interesting perspective on the direction solar is headed. In 2021, total ERCOT demand was 392.8 million MWh, or 1.07 million MWh a day. EIA data through April 13 this year yields a similar result, putting daily ERCOT demand at 1.04 million MWh. Assuming that solar generation tops 100,000 MWh in the next couple of months would push its market share to roughly 9.5%, at least on full sun production days. That would underscore the resource’s meteoric rise, given that ERCOT did not even independently track solar output until 2016.

Wind, with some 35,000 MW of capacity already installed, is expected to grow at a slower rate. But ERCOT still sees the potential for installed wind generation to top 40,000 MW by the end of 2023.

In addition to the growing wind and solar generation resources, developers have big plans for battery storage. There was just 833 MW of installed battery storage capacity in ERCOT at the end of 2021; the system operator now says that could jump to almost 5,000 MW by the end of this year and more than 6,500 MW by 2024. Charged up with wind during overnight periods of high production and low demand or solar during peak daytime production hours before the evening demand spike, the storage resources will further cut into fossil fuel generation, widening the output gap between renewables and gas that appeared this quarter.

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