The Case for Solar in Texas

Due to abundance of solar radiance and land availability, Texas is poised to lead the country in solar. Already, Texas is well on its way. As of early 2016, 2,019 megawatts (MW) had signed interconnection agreements with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the region's Independent System Operator, and another 14,498 MW of solar projects were in development. In addition to Texas’s suitability for solar, a shift towards solar will benefit Texans by increasing energy independence, improving grid reliability, meeting growing energy demand, and improving air quality. Some compelling reasons for expanding solar in Texas are listed below.

 

Availability: Texas is blessed with one of the greatest solar resources in the country. Positioned in the southwest with low tree coverage, Texas has the second greatest technical potential for  photovoltaic (PV) rooftop installations and is additionally well-suited for utility-scale installations in west Texas that can take advantage of the westward concentration of solar radiance (see Figures 1 and 2) and the recently built Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) transmission lines.

 

NREL Technical Potential of PV Systems

Figure 1: Technical Potential of PV Systems Based on Roof Availability and Solar Radiance (NREL). 

 

Energy Security: Solar is an abundant local resource, and expansion of solar can help Texans (and all Americans) improve energy independence.

Meet Growing Energy Demand: In terms of population and economy, Texas is one of the fastest growing states. In the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) Metropolitan Planning Area, the population is forecasted to grow by 47 percent between 2017 and 2040, to over 10.5 million, which is on par with population growth across the rest of Texas. In response to such population growth, there is a need to generate more electricity to keep up with demand. Texas will need more electricity to power homes and businesses, and much of it could come from renewable energy sources such as solar.  Furthermore, commercial and residential customers across the state are now asking for solar energy options.

Solar Radiance Map of the United States
Figure 2: Solar Radiance Map of the United States (NREL).

Efficiency: Much solar is produced and used at the same site, which reduces efficiency losses associated with the transmission system.

Improved Air Quality: Solar is a zero-emission technology. Increased deployment of solar has the potential to help reduce harmful emissions that contribute to ozone formation and health concerns. To learn more about air quality in North Central Texas, visit NCTCOG’s air quality homepage.

Economics and Financial Stability: Due to a combination of federal incentives and falling hardware and installation costs, solar is beginning to reach grid parity with conventional energy sources. In some cases, it is possible to contract solar electricity at lower rates than conventional sources (per kWh), such as in the case of the City of Georgetown.  In addition to being cost-competitive with higher emitting energy sources, solar is less exposed to price volatility associated with the economics of oil & gas. Additionally, solar contracts can be signed for 20-25 years at stable prices which translate into a stable bill for energy end-users.

Compliance with Senate Bill 898: Senate Bill 898 requires municipalities in nonattainment areas to set goals to reduce their electrical consumption by 5% each year for ten years, beginning in September 2011.

 

Evaluate Solar Potential

Local and national solar potential can be evaluated using federal tools including the EPA RE-Powering Mapper and the DOE Solar Prospector (works best using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers). Both tools are designed to identify sites suitable for solar installations; the Solar Prospector is focused on suitability for utility-scale solar plants.DOE Solar Prospector

The EPA RE-Powering Mapper is available for use with Google Earth, or the data can be downloaded as a GIS shapefile. For links and instructions on both, visit RE-Powering Mapping and Screening Tools.

NCTCOG has used the RE-Powering Mapping Tool to create maps of solar energy potential within each regional boundary across the state of Texas. Check out the map of the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission for a closer look at what information is available! To request the data or map, contact us!

 

 

Sources

Texas Solar Power Association, "Solar in Texas: Current Status and Future Projections" (February 8, 2017).

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment" (January 2016).

United States Census Bureau, "Five of the Nation’s Eleven Fastest-Growing Cities are in Texas" (May 2016).

North Central Texas Council of Governments, "Mobility 2040: The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for North Central Texas"