Wind, solar rise as Texas renewable output increases — grid operator

Source: Edward Klump, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Renewable energy production in Texas that’s tracked through a credit program climbed about 12 percent last year as wind continued to dominate the sector and solar output surged, the state’s main power grid operator said last week.

A report showed Texas produced about 38.1 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy in 2013, compared with 33.9 million MWh a year earlier, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT. Wind accounted for about 36.9 million MWh, or roughly 97 percent of last year’s total.The statistics were included in an update on the state’s renewable energy credit trading program.

Solar showed the biggest year-over-year percentage gain, with a 33 percent jump to 178,326 MWh, ERCOT said. Wind had the largest actual increase — more than 4 million MWh — as it rose 13 percent to nearly 37 million MWh.

“Wind has been doing great and has been a huge success story for Texas, and solar is the new huge success story that’s underway in Texas,” said Karen Hadden of the Texas-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “We’re going to see more and more of it, and the two work together beautifully.”

Production from landfill gas output rose about 2 percent from a year earlier to 550,845 MWh in 2013, ERCOT said. At the same time, the council said output from biomass plunged 31 percent to 200,564 MWh and hydro dropped 24 percent to 294,238 MWh, though both remained larger than solar.

ERCOT, in a news release, described a renewable energy credit as “a tradable instrument that represents one MWh of renewable energy produced.” That’s about the amount of power used in an average home in a month, the council said.

Competitive retail electric providers are to acquire and retire such credits each year, based on a load-ratio share of the state’s renewable portfolio standard mandate, ERCOT said. Companies also can retire the credits voluntarily to back up statements on renewable power sales, according to the council.

ERCOT said the program has 146 generation accounts that combine for 13,359 megawatts of new renewable generation placed in Texas since 1999. The total climbs to 13,650 MW when an additional 291 MW of renewable generation is included from five resources established before September 1999.

Texas several years ago topped its target of having 10,000 MW of renewable capacity, well ahead of a 2025 goal, ERCOT said.

Of the 13,359 MW of renewable generation, 12,824 MW of capacity was shown as coming from wind in an ERCOT breakdown of last year. Biomass was next at 232 MW, followed by solar with 175 MW, landfill gas at 95 MW and hydro with 33 MW.

David Power, deputy director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, which tracks energy and other issues, said thousands of megawatts of wind power will be poised to show up in future reports on Texas renewable capacity. He said the state’s push to improve transmission access for such generation has been important.

The Solar Energy Industries Association’s Ken Johnson, the vice president for communications, said in an emailed statement that the solar industry may grow even faster in future years in Texas. But he did call for a net metering policy that will help give homeowners credit for power they produce.

Growth continues to take shape in big Texas projects, meanwhile.

Just last week, Recurrent Energy announced that it was awarded a contract by Austin Energy for a solar installation with a 150 MW capacity in West Texas. The project is to be completed in 2016 and was described by Recurrent as aiming to be the “largest single solar power plant” in the state.

“The Texas market represents one of the most exciting opportunities for the solar industry,” Arno Harris, chief executive officer at Recurrent, said in a news release. “The industry’s growing scale and decreasing costs are enabling us to successfully compete against conventional energy in deregulated markets like ERCOT.”