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Solar and Wind destroying coal generation in Texas

image credit: 8minute solar energy

Wind in Texas has boomed over the last few years. In fact, electricity generation from wind should pass generation from coal in 2020 after coming close in 2019.

For 2019, coal generation will drop to about 80TWh and wind will grow to about 76TWh on the ERCOT grid - so we will have to wait another year for wind to surpass coal.

Solar on the other hand has barely moved the needle in Texas.  In fact, ERCOT only decided to break out solar as a separate category in 2016 when it had a 0.24% share of the yearly total in Texas. Over the last couple of years solar has slowly progressed to where it now has about 2GW of capacity in TX and provided about 1.2% of the generation on ERCOT so far this year.

Recently, there has been a dramatic change in the amount of solar projects under development in Texas. A huge number of solar projects have been announced or already under construction.  We can expect solar capacity in TX to explode past 10 GW over the next few years. Here are just a few sample of recent projects:

  Enel Green Power NA breaks ground on 497-MW Texas solar site

  The 225-MW Long Draw Solar Project Breaks Ground in Texas

  Orsted Brings 460MW Solar-Plus-Storage Project to Texas Oil Country


With solar eating away at coal share during the day and wind taking away share in the late afternoon/night - expect to see coal generation continue its rapid decline in the early 2020s.

Joe Deely's picture

Thank Joe for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 14, 2019 10:53 pm GMT

Solar on the other hand has barely moved the needle in Texas

What was the cause of this disparity where wind became huge in TX but solar lagged far behind?

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm GMT

Earlier in the decade - wind was much cheaper vs solar.  This allowed an ecosystem to be built around wind.

The solar version of this is just getting started now that solar prices are competitive.

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Nov 18, 2019 3:42 pm GMT

Joe hit it right on, competitive markets demand lower costs, even with ITC's Solar was not competitive, now their costs are way down, and the Wind PTC is expiring.  The actual operating experience will be interesting, many of the early Wind projects had overly optimist forecasts and did not perform as expected, hopefully Solar will not have this issue, easier to model the sun but the clouds?

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Nov 19, 2019 5:42 am GMT

Will be interesting to see the next gen of wind turbines, eg the GE 12 meg unit,,

have consistently dropped in price since then, and the new capacity, eg 63% for that unit, - even though it is designed for offshore would be good onshore, and anyway texas has lots of shore to be off.

Point is, cheaper, higher, and higher capacity machines are being manufactured, which extend the wind generation time per day, so it may well be economical for earlier sites to sell their old clunkers, or donate them to island communities etc, as there is so much more money to be made with the new machines and those sites are already established 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 19, 2019 12:41 pm GMT

so it may well be economical for earlier sites to sell their old clunkers, or donate them to island communities etc

I've read a lot recently about concerns about the recycling/disposal of old wind turbines at the end of life-- is there really much of a market for these types of second lives? I suppose if you're taking them down only halfway through their expected lifetimes these may work-- but would it still then be economical to transport, reinstall, and ensure safety and reliability of these secondhand turbines that have notably decreased expected lifetimes?

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