(TNS) – Renewable energy sources came through in a big way this week for Texas, when temperatures and electricity demand reached record levels.
On Sunday, Texans hit a new record for electricity demand, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, as triple-digit temperatures baked the state. But as Dallas-Fort-Worth tied a 111-year-old daily record for high temperature, wind and solar power provided about a third of the state’s electricity, a higher portion than usual.
“Part of this incredible heat is that it’s changes in temperature that causes wind. So in both wind and solar, we’re seeing performance well above what ERCOT was projecting for those resources this time of the year,” said Jeff Clark, president of the Advanced Power Alliance, a renewable energy trade organization.
Between June 7-13, the Texas grid generated approximately 2,679 GWh of wind energy and 598 GWh of solar energy, accounting for about 33% of the total energy generated during that period, according to a statement from ERCOT. That’s more than in 2021, when wind and solar generated about 28.4%of total electricity for the entire year.
And from January to May this year, about 37% of the total electricity came from wind and solar, according to the ERCOT website, up from 32% during the same period in 2021.
Renewable energy output has grown steadily in Texas over the past few decades, surpassing the rest of the country. Renewables contributed about 20% of total U.S. electricity last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“We don’t advocate that renewables are the only thing that we do, but we do advocate that they be a very important part of our mix,” said Clark, with the power alliance. “I think what we’ve seen in May and June is all of our resources working together.”
The proportion of energy generated from wind power in Texas set a new record on April 10, when it contributed to about 69% of the total electricity on the ERCOT grid. Solar energy generation in the state’s main power grid set a new record on May 19, when it accounted for 14.62% of the electricity in the system.
Although energy generation from using natural gas is “vital” to the electric grid system, Clark said renewable energy sources helped offset some of the impact of rising natural gas prices.
“The bills are going to hurt, but they would have hurt a lot more without these renewables on the system,” he said.
While power generation from solar and wind has grown, Alison Silverstein, an electric system reliability consultant and researcher, said insufficient transmission and infrastructure makes it harder for consumers to receive energy from renewables.
A lack of transmission causes bottlenecks on the grid, affecting available energy produced by low cost wind and solar generation, boosting energy costs. And the impact is greater on renewables than on thermal power generators, she said.
Multiple factors lead to the insufficiencies, including growth in the state outpacing the rate that utilities can build transmission lines.
Silverstein said Texas could also research different ways to manage the existing transmission system. Regulators and grid managers are looking at adjusting rules that limit the amount of electricity transmission lines may carry in order to maintain the reliability of the grid, Silverstein said.
Although those limits are necessary, there could be flexibility to modify the rules at times of increased demand if it does not harm the overall system, Silverstein said.
With continued population growth, the problem is not going to be solved quickly.
While building more transmission infrastructure would improve power supply, Silverstein said more can be done to deal with demand.
“Electricity demand has vastly stripped our ability and usually leisurely timeline to add new transmission,” Silverstein said.
Smart thermostats, or incentivizing people to conserve and use their power more responsibly, are among the ways to change consumer behavior to improve the long term health of the grid.
“The fact of the matter is, if customers used less electricity at the right times, overall we would need less high-cost generation, reduce the effects of transmission congestion and save money,” Silverstein said.