Construction of the Erath solar project in Erath County, Texas, southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth, kicked off today. The 10-megawatt community solar farm is expected to be completed in February 2021. It’s not a huge project by any means, but any new solar farm is good news.
Texas is already a US leader in wind, and now it’s rising in the ranks in solar. But is the state really making an impact on boosting US green energy? What about within the global context?
The Erath solar farm is the result of a joint effort by Burleson, Texas-based electric distribution cooperative United Cooperative Services, solar independent power producer Navisun, and green energy development, advisory, and investment company TurningPoint Energy. Navisun will finance, build, own, and operate it.
United Cooperative Services serves 93,000 meters in 14 north Texas counties. The Erath Solar project will provide United’s members with the opportunity to purchase green energy through its community solar program, United Community Solar.
The big Texas solar picture
So, where does this latest project fall in Texas solar’s big picture? Electrek recently wrote about how Texas is set to host the largest solar project in the US, a 1,310-megawatt solar farm in the northeastern region of the state that will be operational in 2023.
Let’s look at the Lone Star State’s solar data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, which is from the second quarter of 2020:
- Solar installed (GW): 5.58
- National ranking: 4th (3rd in 2019)
- Enough solar installed to power: 642,199 homes
- Percentage of state’s electricity from solar: 1.35%
- Solar jobs: 10,261
- Solar companies in state: 475 (80 manufacturers, 195 installers/developers, 200 others)
- Total solar investment in state: $7,404.97 million
- Prices have fallen 38% over the last 5 years
- Growth projection and ranking: 14,958 MW over the next 5 years (ranks 2nd)
- Number Of installations: 76,584
Texas and the US solar context
Texas is such a fascinating state when it comes to energy. It’s got a long, deep history with oil, yet had the most wind capacity installed at the end of 2019. And as per above, it’s ranked fourth in the country for solar and expected to move up to second within five years.
The state does have the second-largest population in the US (29 million), behind California (39.7 million), so that’s a lot of people who use a lot of energy. When we look at green energy rankings, Texas is encouraging. So is the fact that it’s expected to install nearly 15 megawatts of energy over the next five years.
But it can do better, like not charge consumers extra for using green energy rather than fossil fuels. For example, Conservative Texans for Energy Innovation want to put a stop to electric utilities imposing extra charges on green energy. Maybe the Republican legislators should listen to their own supporters.
But when we look at the fact that only 1.35% of the state’s electricity comes from solar — and it’s a leader in the US — it’s a serious reality check. (FYI, wind provided 17.5% of all in-state electricity production in 2019, so that’s a bit more encouraging.)
Texas and the global solar context
If we put Texas solar’s 5.58 GW into the context of the top 5 countries producing the most cumulative installed solar PV capacity in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2020 “Snapshot of Global PV Markets,” here’s where it stands:
- China: 30.1 GW
- European Union: 16 GW
- United States: 13.3 GW
- Japan: 7 GW
- Vietnam: 4.8 GW
So while Texas’ 1.35% solar figure is a bit deflating, it also makes up 42% of US installed capacity (and beats Vietnam).
If we look at this from a global perspective, it’s a bit more optimistic. Here’s the IEA’s take:
In the coming years, PV has the potential to become a major source of electricity at an extremely rapid pace in several countries all over the world. The speed of its development stems from its unique ability to cover most market segments; from the very small household systems to utility-size power plants (today way over 1 GWp).
PV follows a rapid growth path, which might be supported in the coming years by two key enablers: the decrease of battery prices, the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, and the emergence of commercial green hydrogen production plants.
We at Electrek cheer on any and all jumps forward in adopting green energy and are optimistic that exciting things are going to happen in this sector in the next five years for the reasons the IEA cites above.
But the world, and particularly the US, needs to leap a lot faster. Lone Star State, show us how everything truly is bigger in Texas. We’ve got a serious climate-crisis deadline to meet.
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