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In the midst of a brutally lengthy heat wave, wind and solar power are supporting the Texas power grid.

This summer’s record-breaking heat in Texas has led residents to turn on their air conditioners at unprecedented rates, driving up the state’s energy consumption. However, there has been no major increase in either power outages or costs.

Energy experts are giving thanks to wind and solar power.

Michael Webber, an energy specialist and professor at the University of Texas in Austin, stated that this summer’s performance from renewable sources has been excellent. It works wonderfully even during peak demand.

Energy specialist in Texas Doug Lewin analyzed state statistics and found that renewable energy was providing 30–40% of the state’s need for power while temperatures hit triple digits on Wednesday.

Statistics from the federal Energy Information Administration show that on June 28 and 29, when the state was experiencing an early heatwave, non-fossil fuel power, such as renewables and nuclear, made up 55% of total generation and nearly 50% of nighttime peak demand.

According to Webber, the combination of wind and sun has been performing admirably. Power from the sun has been plentiful during the day, while that from the wind has been strong in the evening.

According to Texas energy expert Doug Lewin, CEO of consulting firm Stoic Energy, renewables have been a lifeline for the Texas system as some older thermal facilities, which run on coal, natural gas, and nuclear, have gone offline during the summer.

Lewin told that thermal plant outages have been significant during heatwaves, even by the standards of Texas grid manager ERCOT. The thermal outages have remained at a high level all summer, but renewable energy has performed admirably.

Texas’s solar growth

Texas has been adding renewables, especially solar, at a remarkable rate despite certain anti-renewable laws filed in the legislature this year.

Approximately 7.7 gigawatts of utility-scale solar capacity will be installed in the Lone Star state in 2023, according to the US Energy Information Administration. By the end of 2025, the federal energy agency anticipates that the state will have added another 24.8 GW of solar capacity. Collectively, that may provide electricity to more than 10 million homes.

To ensure that wind and solar power can be used even when the weather is unfavorable, the state is quickly rolling out battery storage systems.

Webber claims that solar is the state of Texas’s new “darling” energy source since it is less expensive and simpler to implement than building a new natural gas or nuclear power plant.

“It’s the only item that can be constructed rapidly enough,” he said. No gas plant or nuclear power plant could have been constructed between last summer and this one. It doesn’t require air conditioning and can operate without a special permission.

The expansion of solar energy in Texas follows the state’s recent wind industry development. Even while more wind capacity has been constructed in the state since 2019, that growth is decreasing, and solar is expected to eventually overtake wind. Offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico are still in the planning stages, but they hold promise for expanding the state’s renewable energy infrastructure.

Webber noted that despite low natural gas costs and robust performance from renewable sources, power prices in the state did not spike over the summer.

Earlier this year, ERCOT authorities voiced concerns about depending too much on renewables and advocated for the construction of more natural gas plants. But Lewin argued that was the wrong approach, and this summer proved renewables are crucial to the grid’s stability in the heat.

Intermittency of thermal plants is something that “they continue to neglect,” according to Lewin. It’s absurd to suggest that new fossil fuel power plants would solve all of our problems. Not that renewables are a miracle cure, but neither are thermal power plants.

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