Sunday, April 12, 2015

Solar Increasing in Texas

Texas has embraced wind power in a big way. It is the second energy boom for the state. Texas produces more power via wind power than any country in the world except the U.S., and that is only because those U.S. figures include Texas. According to Wikipedia, Texas generates in excess of 12,000 MW using wind power. That is more than half of the combined capacity of all hydropower plants in the country. And yet, despite the vast expanses of open land and bring sunshine, solar power has not done well in this state.

Now, it looks as though that is changing. An article in Scientific America detailed how metropolitan Austin is adding 600 MW of solar capacity within the next two years. This comes after the nearby city of Georgetown has announced it will be 100% renewable with wind and solar power by 2017. San Antonio has also announced it will start receiving 400 MW of solar power as soon as next year.

There are three power grids in the U.S. - one in the east, one in the west and one in Texas. The three grids come together in one location in New Mexico. The Texas grid, ERCOT, is the most advanced power grid in the country and plenty capable of handling the load from wind and solar. These more intermittent power sources put a strain on power grids, but ERCOT can do the job. Hence the rise in wind power over recent years.

So, it's strange solar has not spread as much here. Hopefully, that is starting to change and it would be part of a bigger trend. A new report states worldwide investment in renewable energy has increased by 17% last year to $270 billion. That is some serious coin. Unfortunately, that was the first increase after three years of decreases, but it is still a lot of money and the second most ever. 95 gigawatts of wind and solar were installed world-wide last year, after 74 gigawatts were installed in 2013. 170 gigawatts in two years. It's a good trend, but we need to do better. At the current rate, the report states it will take until 2030 for wind and solar to make up 20% of the world's power generating capacity.

Still, it's a good sign. I should love to see a few gigawatts added here in Texas.

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