Solar Will Kick Most Of Texas’s Remaining Coal Fleet Offline
In Texas, solar will soon push most of the remaining coal fleet offline, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). IEEFA’s recent report, Solar Surge Set to Drive Much of Remaining Texas Coal-Fire Fleet Offline, shared that this is largely due to the growth in utility-scale PV production and how it’s rapidly changing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market.
ERCOT manages the coal plants across the power-generation market, and the report shares just how vulnerable these are. It predicted a 70% rise in risk for daytime coal-fired generation in ERCOT by 2022. Let’s dive into the report and some key points.
How Wind Power Set the Stage for Solar in Texas
The report noted that the rise in solar is due to developments over the past decade, which have set the stage for more renewables. In 2009, coal-fired plants created 111.8 million MWh of electricity in the market. This accounted for almost 37% of ERCOT’s demand. In 2019, those numbers dropped to 77.9 million MWh. Despite the drop, electricity demand in ERCOT rose from 305.4 million MWh in 2009 to 284 million MWh by 2019. That was a 25.7% increase. Thus, coal’s market share fell to just above 20%.
It’s clear to see that despite the decline in coal generation, electricity was still being produced — mostly by wind power that doesn’t have any fuel costs. Along with wind, natural gas prices driven down by the surge in fracking pushed coal off the grid as well.
Installed wind capacity in ERCOT grew around 15,000 MW over the decade and raised total wind generation from 18.8 million MWh to 76.7 million MWh. This increased wind’s share of the ERCOT power generation market from just over 6% to almost 20%, making it an equal with the state’s coal generators.
A Look at Wind, Gas, and Coal
The chart below details just how these three energy sources compared over the span of a decade. While wind gave coal a push out the door, gas rose from 128.6 million MWh to 181.8 million MWh, an increase almost as large as wind’s.
Enter ERCOT’s Solar Surge
The report detailed two separate statistics that reflected the solar surge.
1. A wave of new generation capacity that is expected to come online within the next two years.
2. Current solar generation.
By the end of 2019, ERCOT saw the existence of 2,281 MW of utility-scale solar capacity. It marked a 15,107% increase from 2010 when ERCOT only had 15 MW of solar generation capacity. That is a huge increase that has gotten larger by 2020. At the end of May, ERCOT saw the addition of 420 MW (Elon Musk would love that) added to the generation stack and another 1,057 MW of solar that had been synchronized with the grid as preparation for full deployment. This brought ERCOT’s total installed capacity to 3,748 MW.