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Texas May Now Be Better Known for its Big Wind and Solar

ercotWhen you think of Texas, you think of Big Oil. Well, how about big wind and big solar?

The entity that schedules and delivers electricity along the transmission grid there says that by 2030, solar will be a big supplier. Already, the state is one of the nation’s biggest wind producers.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT for short, says in its 2016 Long Term Assessment that natural gas will comprise about half of the electric generation in the state — as it will in many states across the country — but that solar will make up 17 percent of the capacity mix by 2030, or between 14,000 and 17,000 megawatts.

A corollary of that is that the growth of both fuels is coming at the expense of coal, where the grid operator says that 10,000 megawatts of capacity will retire in that time frame; 5,000 megawatts will go over the next five years. Coal will be 10 percent of the mix there, it adds.

Meantime, Texas ranks first in the country regarding wind installations. It has more than 17,000 megawatts of existing installed capacity, notes the American Wind Energy Association. And the state is ranked tenth in cumulative solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

ERCOT is charged with ensuring that the grid is reliable and that all that electricity flow through corporate customers. Do intermittent sources impede that role?

ERCOT has voiced its concerns over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan because it would accelerate the pace of coal retirements — units that maintain reliability in the state, the grid operator says. The rule would mandate 32 percents in carbon by 2030 if it survives legal challenges.

“We continue to have concerns about the potential impacts on planning and operation of the ERCOT power grid,” says ERCOT’s Chief Executive Trip Doggett, in a statement. “Based on our analysis, we are especially concerned about reliability risks associated with multiple unit retirements within a short timeframe.”

ERCOT also expects electric rates there to rise as a result of the Clean Power Plan and that new transmission lines will furthermore be required — at between $1 million and $3 million a mile. It said that anticipates the impacts of these changes could increase retail power prices by up to 16 percent by 2030, not including the impacts of new transmission projects or other investments that could be needed to support compliance.

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