Figure 3: ELECTRICI TY GENERA TION B Y FUEL
Compared to the nation (left), which generates about half of its electricity from coal and 1 percent
from wind, Texas (right) generates about half of its electricity from natural gas and 4 percent
from wind. Much of the natural gas capacity in Texas is underutilized, making it available as
firming power (or ancillary services) during times when solar or wind resources are not available.
Sources: EIA; Lott, King & Webber
Antonio’s CPS, Lower Colorado River Authority ( lcra.org), Bluebonnet Co-op (bluebonnet-
electric.coop) and Pedernales Electric Co-op
( pec.coop) — gives the state a unique opportunity to kickstart the solar race. Austin Energy,
a national leader in green power programs, has
already committed to extensive new solar capacity investments. In particular, the utility plans to
build a 30-MW PV farm on Austin-owned property by the end of 2010. This plant would eclipse
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, which hosts the
nation’s largest PV array at 14 M W. Furthermore,
CPS Energy plans to buy power from a projected
27-MW plant in West Texas.
tric Reliability Council of Texas ( ercot.com), is
separated from the rest of the nation, allowing
the state to make investments without federal
intervention. This is good news for solar development since permitting processes are more
streamlined. Grid independence has also yielded unprecedented transmission-line build-out
under the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone
(CREZ) program. Under CREZ, approximately
$5 billion has been allocated to build a startling
18 GW of transmission capacity from far-flung
regions of Texas, where wind and solar resources abound, to demand centers in the eastern
half of the state. And, because “uplift” costs are
socialized in Texas, the expense of hooking up
new generation from solar and wind resources is
Texas has its own grid,
Figure 4: SOLAR, WIND IMPACTS FOR TRANSMISSION
allowing the state to make
shared equally among
all users. This cost
distribution makes it
easier for remote solar
and wind installations
to compete economically with large-scale
power plants closer
to the cities.
developers don’t have
to carry the costs of
new transmission and
natural gas generation, their economics
with what they would
be in other states.
Conveniently, the availability of wind and
solar power in the panhandle and western parts
of Texas are often out of phase during the summer (see Figure 4, below). This fortuitous mismatch means that solar farms can potentially
share the transmission capacity originally built
to enable wind integration. Texas would thereby
avoid a second expensive build-out of new solar-dedicated transmission lines.
Furthermore, the solar profile matches well
with peak demand in Texas. Solar can enter the
market by competing with natural gas-driven
peak power prices (often 10 to 20 cents per
kilowatt-hour) instead of with coal- and nuclear-driven baseload prices (often 4 to 8 cents per
kilowatt-hour). As a secondary benefit, solar’s
peak availability helps
avoid using other dedicated peaking capacity investments.
Copyright © 2009 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
The availability of wind and solar power in the panhandle and western parts of Texas are often
out of phase with each other during the summer. Consequently, they can share the same transmission capacity, avoiding the need for a second expensive build-out of new transmission lines.
Source: Garrison, Kapner & Webber
Solar Is the
Texas needs solar
energy. The state’s
population is forecast
to grow by 10 million
people by 2030, and
utility companies will
need to build new generation of some sort.
The combined purchasing power of five
large public utilities
in the heart of Texas
— Austin Energy, San
Austin Energy is also a key player in the ambitious Pecan Street Project (pecanstreetproject.
org). This smart-grid effort calls for Austin to
install 300 MW of solar power by 2030, an
aggressive target for a city that now has less than
3,000 MW of total capacity.
Texas might additionally get intellectual confluence from its high-tech industry. Freescale
Semiconductor ( freescale.com), Advanced
Micro Devices ( amd.com), Applied Materials
( appliedmaterials.com), Silicon Labs (silabs.
com), Samsung ( samsung.com) and Sematech
( sematech.org) are just a few of the Texas-based
semiconductor companies whose expertise could
transfer significant efficiencies to the solar-wafer
manufacturing business. Austin-based HelioVolt
( heliovolt.net), winner of R&D Magazine’s Editor’s Choice for most revolutionary technology,
has already taken a lead in manufacturing building-integrated thin-film solar products.
All things considered — a paved way from
wind, renewable resources, access to technical resources, research capabilities, interconnect options and smart-grid technology —
don’t be surprised if Texas takes the lead in solar
power generation. ST