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Texas Turns To Renewable Energy To Beat The Heat

Texas’ investments in renewable energy sources have helped the state deal with high temperatures this summer. The Lone Star State has seen a sky-high number of triple-digit days this summer and, as of Aug. 12, has broken 10 all-time peak power demand records in 2023 alone. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates 90% of Texas’s electric load, credits the fortitude of wind and solar for the grid’s resilience. Wind and solar energy generated up to 40% of the needed energy during the state’s peak hours of power use.

And it’s just the beginning for Texas. Though the state already produces more wind-powered electricity than the 49 other American states, there’s far more to come. The United States Energy Information Administration estimates the state will install more utility-scale solar capacity in 2023 than any other state – approximately 7.7 gigawatts this year alone. The large state has abundant sunshine and wind, making it an ideal location for a rapid transition to renewable energy resources.

Video Courtesy ERCOTISO

“We have twice as much solar as we had last year, and so the same sun that’s heating up all the buildings and driving the air conditioning use is making electricity,” Joshua Rhodes, a Webber Energy Group scientist at the University of Texas, told Insider. “Not only are we setting demand records, but we’re also setting solar demand records simultaneously.”

And where there’s renewable energy, there are clean energy jobs. Texas is third in the nation for clean energy job growth, adding 5,100 jobs in 2022.

Many new jobs are surfacing as the state rapidly installs battery storage to store solar and wind energy to be used when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sky is cloudy. Solar is proving to be a favorite across the state, partially due to how quickly it can be built and without permitting.

Photo Courtesy Electric Reliability Council of Texas 

“It’s the only thing you can build quickly enough,” Michael Webber, a University of Texas energy expert, explained to CNN. “There’s no way last summer to this one we could have built a gas plant, a nuclear plant. It doesn’t need water cooling; it doesn’t need an air quality permit.”

Much of the clean energy growth in Texas can be attributed to the bipartisan federal Inflation Reduction Act, which set aside $370 billion for investment in clean energy when it passed in August 2022. It has huge benefits for states like Texas, which have a large amount of existing clean energy infrastructure. The Act has numerous incentives for further clean energy growth for businesses and consumers, making it less expensive to install solar panels and purchase energy-efficient appliances, all of which add up to less overall pressure on the Texas power grid.

Accessing energy from renewable sources like wind and solar seems to be making the Texas power grid a more reliable system for the almost 30 million people who call the state home.

Photo Courtesy ​​ERCOT  

“With the growing penetration of new, variable renewables displacing conventional dispatchable generation for power, we’ll need to rely more on renewables during peak conditions than we ever have before,” an Electric Reliability Council of Texas spokesperson told Insider.

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