Even Renewables Are Bigger In Texas
This year, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT, the electric grid that services about 90% of Texas electricity, is scheduled to add almost as much wind as it has in the past five years combined and almost triple its solar capacity. Yes, in 2020. The grid operator’s latest figures indicate that they expect, by the end of the year to have 31,069 MW of wind and 6,035 MW of solar on the system, up from 23,860 and 2,281 MW of wind and solar at the end of 2019.
Texas has long been a leader in wind power, but is quickly catching up on solar. The ERCOT Interconnection Queue, which shows the latest list of projects that are trying to connect to the system is, in fact, dominated by solar projects. Almost 77,000 MW of solar projects are in some stage of connecting to the grid. For reference, the all-time high peak power demand in ERCOT is just shy of 75,000 MW. Not all projects in the interconnection queue will get built, but the amount of solar (76,961 MW), wind (25,886 MW), and energy storage (17,436 MW) vs. natural gas (7,042 MW) in the queue does give a snapshot of what types of projects that investors see as most worth looking at. A preliminary analysis of historical projects in the ERCOT queue indicated that roughly 70% of projects that made it to the latter stage of the queue ended up being completed – solar and wind each have roughly 13,500 MW worth of projects in that latter stage.
Perhaps even more interesting than solar’s ridiculous rise has been that of energy storage projects. The total capacity of energy storage projects is up over 400% from August 2019 and, as recently as Spring 2020, surpassed the capacity of natural gas projects in the queue to take the third spot behind solar and wind. Few projects are in the latter stage of the queue, but interest is rising fast. This trend is not unique to ERCOT, anywhere where markets are competitive, the queues look similar.
Captain Solar to the rescue
The arrival of solar in Texas is very timely as ERCOT is an energy-only market and has had a historically-low reserve margin for the past few years. This reality has caused some consternation because low reserves lead to price spikes that can be over 100 times higher than average. But, again, this is how energy-only markets work, it is a design feature of the system, not a bug.