From the outside, Texas hardly seems like the sort of state that would have an abundance of alternative energy resources and infrastructure. However, despite its reputation as an oil-loving producer, alternative energy makes up an estimated 20% of Texas’ generated energy, and has the highest installed wind capacity and 2nd highest solar market. That number is only expected to grow. For example, the cost of producing wind energy has dropped by two-thirds over seven years and Texas is home to over half of wind production under construction. Although only 20% of generated energy in Texas comes from alternative resources, Texas produces the most alternative energy of any state (and some some countries). The alternative energy future is bright for Texas, especially as production costs continue to decline and efficiencies continue to grow. And while energy costs and sustainability are relevant issues faced by businesses in other states, Texas shows promise in diversifying its electric grid. With that in mind, here is the state of the top alternative energy resources Texas has to offer.
Wind Energy Growth Blows Through
Texas easily leads the nation in wind production capacity, tripling that of any other state. To put this in more measurable terms, the 20,321 megawatts that Texas has capacity for is enough to power 5.7 million average sized homes and is almost a quarter of the United State’s total wind capacity. If Texas has the capacity to produce so much wind energy, why doesn’t it harness it? Until recently, this capacity wasn’t easily supportable. Costs to produce, plus limited facilities to capture wind heavily impacts Texas’ ability to tap into this power. But $7 billion in wind infrastructure upgrades, plus the movement and expansion of major businesses in the state have both helped. In particular, businesses like General Motors, Facebook, and Home Depot have all purchased or taken part in expanding wind farms and the energy they produce for their businesses.
While wind capacity is high, actual energy generation has not caught up yet. In 2017, energy generated from wind fueled around 17% of Texas’ energy, while coal fueled 31%. Experts predict that by 2019, wind will have surpassed coal. Factors including the planned shuttering of coal plants in 2018, and Amazon’s recently developed wind farm in the state are both positive, but there is still one major hurdle: Battery storage. While capacity is incredibly high for wind, generation requires storage and the batteries available don’t have enough of it to efficiently maximize use of wind capacity. As more businesses come to Texas, and the desire for wind power grows, changes will certainly come to battery technology and development, but as it stands, batteries will be the major factor in whether expert predictions come true.
Solar Power Starts to Shine
Texas doesn’t lack in sunshine, but the state has lagged in the utilization of solar power. The issue Texas has traditionally faced with solar power is a lack of capacity infrastructure. Previously 7th in the nation, Texas substantially increased their solar capacity last year, adding 227 megawatts which is enough to power 44,000 homes. The reasons are mixed, but many believe that solar has long suffered in the state due to wind power. When Texas expanded initiatives to improve its alternative energy reach, provisions did not specify an allocation or distribution of how the energy goals should be met. This meant a number of energy generators chose to go into wind, which already had some establishment in the state, rather than invest in solar infrastructure.
Cheap foreign imports and improved efficiency in solar energy have expanded its favorability in recent years, bringing Texas’ solar influence to new heights. And solar was not impacted by the recent tax bill, meaning incentives for solar energy remain intact. Additionally, ERCOT, Texas’ energy organization, predicts that by the year 2030, there will be an expected 14 to 27 gigawatts of solar energy capacity added. With continued support by business and government, solar could partner with wind to replace natural gas and coal as the state’s largest energy mix in the near future.
While other avenues of alternative energy certainly exist in the state, none have such a strong foothold as wind or solar. The fact that businesses in the state both new and old continue to invest in these resources not only means lower costs to companies and consumers alike, but a diverse and sustainable energy future for the state. For businesses considering their energy future and needs, it becomes clear that Texas is a strong option.