AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A report released by the International Energy Agency is projecting a 95% increase in renewable energy capacity across the world over the next five years – a trend Texas is sure to follow, as ERCOT projects solar, wind and storage power to double by the end of 2022.
“Solar is growing globally more than any other type of renewable energy, and it’s also growing in Texas more than any other type of renewable energy, and even outpacing the growth in gas and coal and nuclear,” Environment Texas Clean Energy Associate Lennis Barlow said Friday.
In a Tuesday meeting for the Railroad Commission, which oversees natural gas and oil for Texas, Chairman Wayne Christian expressed doubt about renewable energy, considering all the problems the electric grid faced during the February storm.
“If you add unreliable wind and solar generation and subtract reliable natural gas generation, that equals a less reliable electric grid. Until we fix this fuzzy math, we are simply putting a band-aid on the problem,” he said.
Energy experts said that claim is misleading.
“For the Railroad Commission to be necessarily talking about electricity, it feels a little bit of deflection against the issues that we had in the natural gas sector,” said Josh Rhodes, an energy expert at the University of Texas at Austin.
All energy sectors, not just renewable energy, underperformed during the February freeze. Natural gas, which the RRC oversees, was the first to fail, though, which cut off fuel to the power sector. Wind energy still underperformed, but did not cause the bulk of issues, according to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission’s independent analysis.
The Public Utilities Commission, which oversees electricity, required wind and solar facilities to weatherize by Dec 1. Weatherization gets complicated, however, when it comes to wind turbines.
“In a lot of places down here actually buy the summer package — they’re basically air conditioning up in the top of the cells to make sure things don’t get too hot and other places, they have a heating system,” Rhodes said.
Those heating systems are used in colder climates and are used for months at a time. But in Texas, installing them isn’t very cost effective, since Texas rarely experiences severe cold temperatures in any given winter.
They instead could simply use coatings to help in cold temperatures, but that doesn’t always work with ice.
If wind energy goes offline due to icing issues, Texas could to turn to other sources of renewable energy. Doug Lewin, an energy analyst, said wind and solar tend to complement one another well.
“Wind has a curve where it is lower, kind of right in the middle of the day, and that happens to be the time when solar is at its peak. And as the sun starts to set, then wind is picking up quite a bit,” Lewin said.
There would also be a need to continue to build up storage to tap into, if needed.
“Storage is going to play an increasingly prominent role in the ERCOT system,” Rhodes said. “If you look at the interconnection queue, which is a list of projects that are trying to connect to the to the system, your storage is scheduled to grow extremely fast over the next few years.”