[nectar_dropcap color=””]D [/nectar_dropcap]ust off your spurs and come on down to Solar Power Texas this month to see what analysts expect could be a major solar boom. The Lone Star state is poised to become a major American market for utility-scale PV. As a sponsor of what’s sure to be the biggest solar show in Texas, TerraSmart it is a big part of that round-up. Join this important event produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association June 13 and 14 in Austin to hear for yourself why Texas solar is heating up.
Ranked ninth in the country based on its 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of total solar capacity, Texas added 672 megawatts (MW) of new solar in 2016 and is expected to bring 4.6 GW online over the next five years.
That expected growth is second only to leading solar state California. With four of those 4.6 GW coming from utility-scale development, the Texas growth isn’t on rooftops.
Here are some interesting perspectives on Texas solar to get you saddled up for the event:
– Solar stimulates economic growth: PV investments thus far have brought $2.3 billion to Texas, with a whopping $940 million of that in 2016 alone
– New PV creates jobs for Texans: Nearly 500 solar companies employ 9,300 people in manufacturing, project development and installation; that’s a 34 percent gain just in 2016
– Solar ready to bust out: While only a quarter of one percent of Texas electricity comes from solar today, that will explode at least 12 fold by 2030
Strong Texas winds smooth the way for bright sun
While Texas solar may be booming, its winds are what really got renewables going. Known internationally for its oil production, Texas quietly has become a leader in developing and using renewable energy, especially wind power. Nearly ten years ago, Texas startled everyone when it claimed the mantle of “king of wind,” bucking California out of first place. Texas now has more than 18 GW of wind capacity, triple California’s current installed base. Could the Lone Star state do the same in solar power over the next decade?
Texas pulled off its wind miracle largely because the state invested in transmission line improvements to accommodate wind generation. By creating Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, state policymakers and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Texas pulled off its wind miracle largely because the state invested in transmission line improvements to accommodate wind generation. By creating Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, state policymakers and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) pushed to invest $7 billion in transmission line upgrades. Now low-cost wind power moves from sparsely populated west Texas and the Panhandle to the east’s large population centers.
Now solar is growing rapidly, spurred on by the state’s abundant sunshine, sprawling land, relatively simple permitting and significant transmission capacity. And because Texas’ wind is most active at night, combining this intermittent power with solar produced only during the day helps to balance the grid.
Solar policy – neither friend nor foe
In 1999, the Public Utility Commission of Texas set the state’s renewable portfolio standard at 5 GW by 2015, or five percent of the state’s capacity in 2012, rising to 10 GW by 2025.
According to ERCOT, which administers the state’s Renewable Energy Credit Trading Program, Texas surpassed its 2025 target in 2009 and had more than 13 GW of additional renewable energy capacity in 2013, almost all of it wind (12.8 GW).
So while Texas bucks the nationwide trend for solar regulatory support, a minimal Renewables Portfolio Standard, no tax credits, and no statewide rebates, other factors are in play to drive solar in the Lone Star state.
Texas coal rides into the sunset
Regulations like the regional haze rule enforced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have forced coal-powered generation off the market. While the current Administration likely will relax environmental rules overall, ERCOT still expects the regional haze rule to remain in effect. This law requires power producers to reduce emissions that affect air quality, driving roughly 5 GW of older coal plants offline in the next five years.
ERCOT projects that between 14 GW and 27 GW of new solar capacity will be required to meet demand and secure the state’s grid over the next 15 years. At the current rate of growth, natural gas could make up slightly less than half of Texas’ capacity, while solar will jump from about 3 to 17 percent.
Lasso costs by partnering with TerraSmart
In a deregulated market like Texas, it can be difficult for solar developers to create viable projects. Deregulation means super-low wholesale power prices. At 2 cents to 3.5 cents per kilowatt hour, conventional power already is low in parts of the state where utility-scale solar makes sense. This makes options like PURPA contracts – which allow developers to sell solar at rates under a utility’s “avoided cost of power” – a tough sell in Texas.
Instead, solar developers focus on large municipal utilities like Austin Energy and CPS Energy for financially-viable power purchase agreements. In addition, developers are taking advantage of their ability to offer fixed rates for up to five years; standard utilities typically can’t offer fixed rates for more than one to two years.
To increase solar project viability, Texas developers need uber-efficient racking partners. TerraSmart offers unique solutions for profitable, utility-scale solar: Its industry-defining TF2 rack uses only one-third the hardware found in competing systems so arrays can be installed faster, saving valuable time and labor costs.
And because TerraSmart is the first in the industry to deliver a complete turnkey panel and rack installation, it has mastered its craft with its own equipment, installation crews, and dedicated project managers to streamline builds and avoid unforeseen delays.
Clearly, this is not TerraSmart’s first rodeo. Our new autonomous tech and other time-saving construction techniques rein in spiraling schedules and costs. We’re ready to mount up and help you develop 28 GW of fast and profitable solar in Texas by 2027.