Texas power grid begging for solar power

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Texas electricity generation is in the midst of a revolution. This summer it is expected that wind capacity will surpass coal capacity. Before this, Texas already had the most wind power of any U.S. state, and if Texas were a country all its own – gawd Texas would love that – the Lone Star would be fourth-ranked in the world.

However, wind slows down during the warm summer days in Texas. And, as Joshua Rhodes, Ph.D., a Research Fellow at the Energy Institute and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin, has been dutifully tracking tracking via Twitter – this summer we have seen the wind slow down exactly align with mid-day record demand.

And of key importance to the marketplace is that Texas’ mismatch in electricity generation is the exact opposite of a duck curve. Of course, we in the solar industry know that in springtime the duck curve first shifts the demand peak later, leading to some daytime pricing being below night time pricing – and that during summertime heat waves solar and solar+storage feast on peak pricing.

Midday peak pricing has certainly come to Texas, starting to approach the maximum legal price of $9.00/kWh (you read that right, it doesn’t say 9¢/kWh):

So what’s a Texan to do? pv magazine has been reporting that Texans are already getting down to business. We’re seeing record sized projects one upping each other over and over. First is the current largest operational solar power plant at 180 MW-DC, next is an announced ~240 MW-DC and most recently is a coming 315 MW-DC bomb. And then of course we add in the most golden of all the news – Big Oil going Big Solar.

But solar isn’t alone in this fight. The 180-MW Upton project is now getting a 10 MW / 42 MWh battery storage system. And you can be sure that the battery developer is licking their chops at that sort of pricing.

The rapid development of the Texas market is showing in data. SEIA notes in its Texas profile that the Lone Star State is currently the 7th overall in solar power installed, but was the 4th-largest market in 2017 – and it projects that the state will take 3rd place over the next five years as it installs almost 6.5 GW of solar.

SEIA Texas Solar Power

With Texas having developed their statewide HVAC transmission electrical grid, the far western part of the state – which has the best solar resources – is now seeing multi-decade solar lease contracts being waved around. With a state peak demand of 73 GW, and solar power signing contracts below 3¢/kWh on a regular basis, the boom is just starting.

Edit – Texas doesn’t have a statewide HVDC network, but a heavily upgraded HVAC transmission network. We hold out hope though.