Texas has been a leader in wind energy for a number of years. In 2020, wind made up 23% of the state’s generating capacity and provided 20% of in-state generation. But although wind capacity in Texas has grown rapidly in recent years, solar power is expected to make up the largest share of the state’s capacity additions over the next two years.
Texas plans to add 4.6 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power this year and 5.4 gigawatts in 2022. This will give the state a total capacity of 15 gigawatts, which will nearly catch up to California, the state with the most large-scale solar power. California already has 16 gigawatts of installed solar capacity and plans to add about two more over the next two years.
The planned capacity for Texas will provide enough power for roughly 5 million homes, taking into account the intermittency of solar energy. Much of the new solar capacity will be in the Permian Basin in West Texas, which is a particularly sunny place. Because solar generation is greatest in the middle of the day, when wind generation is typically lower, the transmission line infrastructure already in place for the wind power will be adequate for the new solar installations.
The boom in solar power in Texas is driven in part by the federal solar Investment Tax Credit that is available to project developers as well as by the ever-lower cost of solar technology.
One-third of the utility-scale solar capacity planned to come online in the U.S. in the next two years will be in Texas. Currently, utility-scale solar only makes up 4% of electrical generating capacity in Texas, but that is clearly changing.
Photo, posted May 14, 2020, courtesy of Courtney Celley/USFWS via Flickr.