Texas Solar Transformation

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Texas Solar

Texas is leading the U.S. when it comes to solar energy, far overtaking other solar-dominant states, such as California, in terms of new capacity additions. Alongside its successful oil and gas industry, Texas is rapidly developing its renewable energy capacity, supported by the expansion of its cleantech sector. This is turning the Lone Star state into an all-round energy powerhouse. There are several new utility-scale solar projects in the pipeline for the next decade, as well as big plans to develop the state’s battery storage capacity to boost the reliability of the renewable energy source in providing stable power to the grid. 

Texas Grows Solar Power Capacity

A recent report showed that in March, solar generation outpaced coal-fired power plants for providing electricity to the Texas power grid, contributing 3.26 million megawatt-hours (MWh). This was the first time in Texas that solar energy had ever surpassed coal in power generation. Texas contributes around 14% of the solar power generated throughout the U.S. at present, a figure that is expected to rise as the state adds several more widescale projects. The state generated around 14 times more solar power in 2023 than it did in 2017, demonstrating just how rapidly Texas is expanding its solar landscape. 

Texas has been rapidly expanding its solar power capacity in recent years, adding 6,500 MW of new capacity in 2023. Texas attracted approximately $27 billion in investment in solar energy in Q4 of last year. Experts expect Texas to continue leading the way for new utility-scale solar capacity, contributing a projected 35% of the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) expected 58%, or 62.8GW, of new solar capacity this year. 

In addition to significant private funding for the solar power sector, Texas is attracting high levels of public investment. This year, the state was awarded part of a $7 billion federal grant to spur greater access to solar energy in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Almost $250 million was awarded to Harris County for the installation of batteries and solar panels, as well as to provide training to residents looking to work in the industry. A further $156 million was awarded to the Clean Energy Fund of Texas, in partnership with Texas Southern University to install 172 MW of solar power and 84 MWh of battery systems across several campuses. 

While wind energy continues to provide the largest quantity of renewable power in Texas, this could soon change as the state invests heavily in the rollout of solar power. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) electricity grid operator is seeing solar power displace natural gas as the main source of energy during peak sun hours and during the summer months as the state expands its renewable energy production. To support the provision of solar power-generated electricity to the grid in the hours when the sun is not shining, developers are planning to add 13 GW of additional battery storage to the electricity grid by 2025. 

Major Projects

The company Lightsource plans to develop and operate two major solar farms in Texas, supported by $348 million in funding. One will be located in Brazoria County and the other in Starr County, providing a combined capacity of 288 MW, enough to provide power to 50,000 homes. Both projects are expected to come online before the end of the year. 

In 2023, global energy corporation and TotalEnergies commenced operations at their new Myrtle Solar farm in south Houston. The 380-MW project is expected to provide electricity for up to 70,000 homes. 

The second phase of the Sunnyside Solar Farm is expected to be completed in 2024, transforming a 240-acre ex-landfill into a solar farm. This project is thought to be the largest urban solar farm to be built on a landfill in the U.S. to date. 

Solar Power is Growing in Popularity Among Texan Homeowners

Several initiatives have spurred the development of solar power capacity in Texas, including hyperlocal net metering, multiple rebate programs, the federal solar tax rebate, and a tax exemption. While Texas does not provide state-level solar rebates, several utility companies offer incentives for consumers who install solar panels. There are also tax breaks for residents whose property value has increased due to the addition of solar panels. 

More consumers have made the switch to solar to ensure their energy security. The 2021 severe winter storm, that led to widespread power outages, encouraged many homeowners to investigate alternative methods to power their homes. Installing solar panels with battery power allows consumers to go off the grid, ensuring they continue to have access to power during blackouts. 

Solar power is becoming popular at all levels in Texas, from homeowners adding solar panels to their houses, to urban solar farms, and utility-scale projects. The Lone Star state is now adding more solar capacity each year than any other U.S. state, adding to its already impressive wind energy capacity. Texas is fast becoming not only an oil and gas powerhouse but a major renewable energy hub, supported further by the rapid development of its cleantech sector.

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Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specializing in Energy and Industry. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK, and is now based in Mexico City.

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