Most Texans already know that the state’s fortunes were and are fueled by oil and natural gas. What many don’t realize, however, is just how much the future of the Lone Star State will be powered by renewable energy. With the Green Energy in Texas series, we will explore various aspects of the green energy industry and keep you informed on how those changes and innovations might affect your Texas electricity bill.
2017: Are We Seeing a New Dawn for Solar Power in the Lone Star State?
News Flash! Texas generates the most electricity with wind in the nation. But while there’s also a strong potential for solar-produced electricity in the state, it has been largely ignored in favor of bigger profits from less expensive wind farms — until now.
In recent years, a variety of solar costs affecting the industry as a whole lowered to make solar power even more attractive. In particular, the price of polysilicon used to make photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels has declined in recent years. In the first quarter of 2014, polysilicon cost $21.70/kg, and they fell even further by the first quarter of 2016 – to $14.16/kg. Prices for PV modules (typically 6×10 solar cells) are expected to fall from US $0.38/Watt at the start of 2017 to US $0.33/Watt by the end of 2017 due to fierce global competition between manufacturers.
The other big factor pushing development is the extension of the federal investment tax credit. Both residential and utility solar projects can receive a 30% tax credit when construction on the project begins – as long at it’s before 2019. The tax credit will benefit homeowners and help utility-scale solar power projects recoup their investment more quickly. And this will make them better positioned to compete against fossil fueled power plants.
How Does This Impact Solar Power in Texas?
Currently, Texas has roughly 500 megawatts of installed solar generation. However, solar power development is expected to boom in 2017. This past June, ERCOT released its Long-Term System Assessment, revealing that, if current trends continued, solar would generate 200,000 MW by 2031 — about 17% of all power in Texas. To boost this prediction, by August 2016, 8.32 GW worth of solar projects under development had applied to ERCOT for grid connection.
Will This Solar Power Impact My Texas Electricity Bill?
Because solar farms ultimately have to compete against wind and natural gas fired plants, it’s unlikely they will increase your electricity bills – though transmission costs from your local utility company might be a different matter.
The biggest change may come from coal. Many experts believe the declining costs for solar and other renewable energy sources may already be contributing to the end of aging coal-fired generation in Texas because ultimately it will be too expensive to compete.
In the next installment of Green Energy in Texas, we’ll explore the basics of photovoltaic (PV) cell technology.