Gone are the days of the Texas oil boom of the early decades of the 1900’s, and taking its place is the Texas utility-scale solar boom of the early 2000’s. “There will be sun” in the Lone Star State, which is set to take over California as the largest solar market in the United States.
The newest entrant to the Texas solar boom is Accelergen Energy, a company launched in 2020 that emerged from stealth mode this week following a $30 million investment from Leyline Renewable Capital, a renewable energy investor.
Accelergen said it will focus on greenfield utility-scale development, targeting a multi-gigawatt pipeline of solar and energy storage projects. The company will engage in a mix of solar-only, solar-plus-storage, and standalone storage projects.
Thomas Houle, previously managing director of Green Investment Group and founder of Freemantle Energy, and Josh Skogen, twelve-year veteran of utility solar developer sPower, formed the company. The two said Accelergen will leverage in-house grid and commercial analytics in pursuit of strategic advantage in the competitive field.
“We look forward to working with Tom, Josh and their team,” said Todd Kice, managing director of originations, Leyline Renewable Capital. “They’re a top-notch team uniquely equipped with the experience to develop enterprise scale projects in the commercial solar market.”
The company is set to join a steadily growing market. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), often conservative in its projections for renewables, said that 2023 will mark the largest utility-scale solar and storage year yet for the U.S. The EIA projects 29 GW of solar and 9.4 GW of storage to be added this year.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) forecasts that Texas alone will add over 34 GW of solar capacity over the next five years, and most of this will be at the utility-scale. This doubles the cumulative 17 GW installed through the end of 2022. The Advanced Power Alliance projects that in 2024, renewable generation in Texas will deliver $6 billion in net system operating cost savings.
Regulatory hurdle ahead?
While the largely “free market” conditions in Texas combined with its high energy use and strong solar irradiance makes it an attractive market, recent proposed legislation may soon make the market less free. The Texas Senate voted 21-9 in favor of SB 624, a bill that would place significant permit restrictions on solar and wind energy projects in the state.
The legislation singles out solar and wind facilities, requiring them to obtain a permit from the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, while leaving out fossil fuels from the requirement. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has long shown an affinity for fossil fuels, has appointed all the PUC members, who now would act as gatekeepers for any renewable energy project.
“This new legislation will undeniably hinder continued transformation of the Texas grid and threaten investment, growth, workforce advancement, and energy cost reduction within the state,” said Mike Wietecki, senior vice president of strategy and regulatory affairs, Powin, a utility-scale battery energy storage systems provider.
Apex Clean Energy recently announced the development of the 195 MW Angelo solar-plus-storage (100 MW | 200 MWh) project in Texas, using Powin’s Centipede modular battery product.
“Because of the rapid transition, and the potential for unintended consequences, there may be an opportunity to evaluate progress thus far to ensure the continued deployment of clean energy happens in an efficient manner. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the goal of this legislation. Rather it seems intent on putting up illogical roadblocks that will cost Texans real dollars by increasing energy costs, all while reducing the status of Texas as a leader in the sector,” said Wietecki.
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