Wind and solar energy turned into a real trick in Texas this week, with turbines and photovoltaic panels continuing to generate electricity while the entire Southwest was under another round of record setting high temperatures. That might come as a bit of a surprise. After all, Texas is a global leader in oil and gas production, and its coal industry isn’t too shabby either. However, when it comes to delivering kilowatts in extreme conditions, renewables deliver goods.
Extreme weather: who wore it better, renewable or fossil fuels?
Hojun Choi from Dallas Morning News he summed up the situation Thursday morning, writing that “renewables are largely in Texas this week, when temperatures and demand for electricity have reached record levels.”
As Choi reported, the Texans set a new record in electricity demand on June 12, raising the three-digit temperatures that connected the century-old set in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area. Instead of withering under pressure, wind and solar power plants have grown to supply about 1/3 of the state’s electricity. This exceeds the typical average, which is already impressive compared to production from renewable sources in other US states.
The news is particularly significant compared to last year’s devastating power outage in Texas caused by a storm. Fossil energy stakeholders quickly blamed the country’s strong wind industry. However, all sources were affected by the failure throughout the network, and excessive reliance on gas power plants during the winter proved to be the main culprit.
“The share of energy produced from the Texas wind farm set a new record on April 10, when it contributed about 69% of total electricity to the ERCOT network,” Choi added. “Solar energy production in the state’s main power grid set a new record on May 19, when it accounted for 14.62% of the system’s electricity.”
Lone Star State Hearts Renewables
CleanTechnica has spilled a lot of ink on the renewable energy revolution in Texas over the years. The country is the global epicenter of fossil energy production, but weak regulation that has allowed oil, gas and coal production to rise has also opened the door to strong wind industry development, with the healthy help of economic development policies launched by a major new 2013 transmission line.
U.S. military facilities in Texas have also helped promote renewable energy, as part of a broader Defense Department effort to promote energy security and resilience to climate change.
Although much attention is focused on the country’s wind industry, solar energy activity has begun to grow, as has energy storage and other related technologies.
Getting started for renewable energy
Other U.S. states are catching up with Texas in terms of renewable energy, but the state is still ranked first in wind capacity and healthy in second place in solar capacity as of this year, and it doesn’t stop there.
Land-based wind and solar energy are not the only renewable energy sources in the city. Last summer, the University of Texas A&M announced that it was exploring the possibilities of clean technology at sea. This could be a challenge in the field of offshore wind farms, as wind sources in the Gulf of Mexico are less than optimal, but A&M’s vision could bypass this by pairing wind with floating solar panels.
In addition, another Gulf state, Louisiana, is in a hot search for offshore wind capabilities. Last February, the state announced a target of 5 gigawatts for offshore wind farms, which is very impressive considering that the entire United States currently has only a few offshore turbines in operation.
Louisiana could take advantage of green hydrogen and emerging green ammonia to bring the ultimate in offshore wind farm development to the Gulf, and that angle is already in play for Lone Star State.
In January 2021, the University of Texas at Austin hosted a roundtable on green hydrogen to set the state up as a nationwide green hydrogen hub, using its renewable energy sources – wind, solar and biogas – plus its existing fossil energy infrastructure .
Shell has a green corner of hydrogen on the offshore wind project in the Netherlands, which is interesting because in the fall of 2020, the US Department of Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Netherlands on cooperation in the development of offshore wind farms. Shell is also behind the EU’s largest green hydrogen-based electrolyzer project, at its Rheinlander plant in Germany.
Renewable energy sources and trucks, perfectly together
Another interesting corner of the renewable energy scene in Texas is the number of trucks. More drivers in Texas prefer cars and SUVs on a percentage basis, but in terms of raw numbers, the state is still the national leader in truck sales.
The number of trucks in Texas could come into play as old carmakers turn to electric vehicles, and extreme weather conditions fuel more disruptions to the state’s power supply. Ford Motor Company is already advertising the battery of its Lightning F-150 EV as an emergency backup power source, and last year Ford announced a connection to leading solar installer Sunrun that makes it easier for F-150 owners to charge from their own rooftop solar arrays.
If the electric pickup movement becomes mainstream, millions of rolling energy storage devices could take to the streets of Texas, providing much-needed solutions to persistent transmission bottlenecks that continue to slow the pace of renewable energy development in the state.
The truck element is in line with the distributed energy resources and trends of virtual power plants, in which small renewables and energy storage devices are coordinated through smart grid technology to provide the kind of grid services that a large, centralized power plant would otherwise provide.
The trend of virtual power plants began to take shape in the United States a few years ago with the support of the Ministry of Energy. Last month, the agency’s director of credit programs, Jigar Shah, wrote a blog post highlighting the impact of virtual power plants on the demand for renewable energy.
“The consumer market of distributed energy resources – DER – is on the verge of prosperity. The Solar Industry Association estimates that nearly 5% of American homeowners now have solar energy on their roof. Energy storage has its moment, with more warehouses deployed in 2021 than in the previous five years combined. Moreover, solar production and energy storage are becoming more acceptable, and it is expected that a third of the new solar systems installed behind the meter by 2025 will include energy storage, ”Shah wrote.
“DER can provide energy at a lower cost than what the grid usually offers. They do it cleaner, while offering consumers more resilience during negative online events. Despite the unwillingness of commercial lenders to adequately recognize this, DERs are also more accessible and cost-effective than ever, ”he said, adding that“ virtual power plants can catalyze large-scale DER implementation and help make affordable, resilient and clean energy available. to all Americans. ”
That is why we say that this is the beginning of renewable energy sources. For another indication of what fossil energy stakeholders are up to, check out a recent Rice University report showing that “Texas can be a model for the nation on how to efficiently replace coal with wind and solar for the state’s energy needs while meeting environmental goals.” ”
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Photo: rooftop solar panels in Austin, Texas courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy through Austin Energy.
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