A research team at Rice University is modeling least-cost paths to a renewable energy future for Texas, a state that burns more coal and emits more sulfur dioxide than any other. The myriad of health and climate-related harms caused by coal do not need to persist any longer, according to the researchers.
The research team found that just a third of the wind and solar projects proposed to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) by June 2020 could replace almost all of the state’s coal generation. Since June 2020, dozens of those projects have been built, and the queue of proposed solar projects has doubled.
“It’s almost always windy or sunny somewhere in Texas,” said Daniel Cohan, an environmental engineer at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering.
Cohan performed an analysis of peaks in production from West and South Texas renewable resources and suggested that the state’s power production can be made more reliable by adjusting where and when those resources are deployed. As a least-cost path, the model showed that 72 of the 108 wind projects, and 42 of the 262 solar projects proposed in queues could replace most coal in ERCOT. This would leave about 10% of coal output uncovered at certain seasons, and generating a surplus of energy at times of peak solar and wind harvest. Previous work by Rice researchers has shown that wind and solar power are generated at complementary times, with west Texas winds blowing most strongly at night, south Texas sea breezes peaking on summer afternoons, and solar power peaking midday.
“Even with complementary siting, there will still be hours when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing,” Cohan said. “Historically, the main challenge has been summer afternoons when air conditioners are running full blast, and the occasional deep freeze. Solar and coastal winds perform well during summer peaks, but can have lulls on some evenings when we’ll need something else to kick in.”
Generation mix shift
The state of Texas has no clean power mandate, and as a deregulated territory, market forces determine the competition between energy sources. ERCOT is largely independent of other US and Mexico power grids, said the report, with little opportunity for wholesale trade with other system operators. Due to this, any retiring of fossil fuel capacity must be met directly with new clean energy generation.
In 2019, the generation mix for ERCOT was 47% natural gas, 20% coal, 20% wind, 11% nuclear, and 2% solar and other. Coal consumption reached its peak for ERCOT in 2011 at about 110,000 tons of coal burned in the year. That number has come down considerably to about 61,000 tons in 2021. ERCOT processed 14GW of utility-scale solar interconnection requests last year, so the generation mix profile is set to fundamentally change.
The challenge in Texas as many other parts of the US are transmission lines: An expansion is needed to connect the sunniest and windiest parts of the state to the cities.
“In Texas, that’s the biggest bottleneck slowing the growth of wind and solar,” Cohan said. “The bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed last year is a good start, but doesn’t have nearly enough funding for transmission. Also, by not connecting to other grids, Texas has missed out on opportunities to sell surplus wind and solar power to other states.”
A large capacity of coal plans were retired in Texas in 2018, and many ran on limited capacity during the February winter storms that cut power to much of the state earlier that year. Cohan said that natural gas peaker plants will still be needed for the time being to address extreme weather events. However, a report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation found that issues with the natural gas supply caused 87% of the outages during the February storm, as wells and pipelines froze, and uninsulated gas plants failed to function.
As for coal, Cohan believes the end of days are here. “I think none of the power companies want to run coal plants long-term,” Cohan said. “They’re dirtier and costlier to operate than building wind and solar projects from scratch, and most utilities companies now have plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, if not before.”
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Way to go, TEXAS!☺
Excellent news, it’s time to go to normal sources of energy, rather than using angle, oil and others who are so contaminated by our nature.
Not sure what the ERCOT proposals looked like in June 2020, but March they were:
Solar: 28GW with Interconnect Agreement (high probability of getting built)/110GW total proposals
Wind: 11.8GW w/IA/21GW total
Battery: 5.8GW wIA/55GW total
Texas has 18.1GW of coal generation.
2021 Texas had 88.7TWh of coal generated electricity. Up 12.6% from 2020’s pandemic low.
If my math is right that is 56% capacity factor, but with the cost of coal going up that is going to be hard to sustain. It doesn’t look like Texas has much coal retiring in the next few years though so it will probably be a lot of these surprise retirement parties where they announce and retire within a year.
Coal is walking dead in Texas.
The other day here in Texas, Ercot real time power was 10 Bucks a Kilowatt, it was a Beautiful day with highs in the 70’s and the Grid was using about 45% of total power and NO FAILURES.. The Texas Grid is only fixed for the wealthy and driven by pure greed. It took us sitting in the dark all night at our house, Feb. 2021, and it being 2F cold outside to push me to start building my own DIY solar system. Not a thing you plan for after you hit your 70’s. Right now , sitting at my PC, we are running on solar. It’s a start.
The first Hurricane Disaster will take care of all those solar panels.
Better have a fossil fuel backup.
True, I own solar panels with batteries, but I also have a portable gasoline generator for back up. I have not needed that generator in years, but I use my battery backup all the time. I also have a wood stove that can heat my home and cook on. There could come a day when the grid fails, no sun and batteries drained. I have an internal combustion engine automobile that stores extra gasoline just as they are equipping Electric cars and trucks to back-feed the home. The Electrical grid is a service we pay for, but they do not grantee you will have cheap electricity 100% of the time. Homeowners need to be prepared for the coming disasters or wars on the horizon. See how Ukraine is coping with no water, no electricity and no heating fuels except for wood fires using the blasted homes construction wood for fuel.
Rooftop solar expansions for homeowners just died with the new rate scheme by Pedernales Electric.
You’d be an idiot to install solar in their service area because they capture most of the future value of your investment.
Pedernales Electric is Changing the 9-cent credit for every kilo watt hour to 5 cents per kilo watt hour credits will mean that if you want to break even, you will even have to double your number of solar panels. East Bay Energy, in California dropped their Net Metering buy back from 10 cents to 3 cents per kilo watt hour at true-up so I just use up all my summertime credit, so I turned off my natural gas pilot light and ran all electric heaters, in my home, this past winter to eat up that “worthless 3 cent” per kilowatt hour electricity. I used up $60.00 of that “Worthless” Electricity and saved $320.00 of that “Expensive” Natural Gas, they used to sell to me, this winter. Since the utility, PG&E also asked me to cut back on my natural Gas usage, I was able to oblige them with ease.
Pedernales Electric Charges 9.93465 cents per kilo watt hour for electricity plus a $22.00 per month connection charge. PG&E, in California ,Charges 28 cents per kilo watt hour and a $10.00 per month connection charge. 800 kilo watt hours per month costs Texas Customers $96.77 and California customers pay $234.00 or more for the same 800 Kilo Watt Hours depending on the time of day they buy it. The more you pay for electricity, the faster the payback on the solar installation. Over the next 5 years, California utilities have planned rate increases that will take the average rate up to 40 cents per kilo Watt hour. A 10,000-watt system in California costs $22,000.00 after the Federal Solar Tax Credit and will produce 10,000 Kilo Watt Hours per year. At 40 Cents per kilo Watt Hour, the annual pay back electrical savings will be is $4,000.00 so it would only take 5 1/2 years to break even. In Texas at the Pedernales Electric Utility area the pay back is $1,000.00 per year or would take 22 years to get the pay back without batteries. This is if you use ALL the electricity and not put any back on the grid. So run that air conditioning, electric heating, electric cook tops and Electric Dryers and run the lights all day and night if you buy solar panels.
Would like an article on where solar tax credits are going the next few years. And if they might come refundable.
I feel something thank you!
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