In a significant development, Texas has recently surged ahead of California in grid-scale solar energy, further solidifying its dominance in the alternative energy sector, where Texas has long held a commanding position in wind power.
As of October 25, 2023, both state-level grid operators, CAISO in California and ERCOT in Texas report Texas boasting an impressive 22,163 megawatts of installed grid-scale solar capacity. In contrast, California reports 17,277 megawatts of grid-scale solar capacity as of October 5, 2023, firmly establishing Texas as the leader in national grid-scale solar energy.
Texas’s ascendancy in grid-scale solar energy is complemented by its well-established wind power infrastructure. By the first quarter of 2023, Texas had a remarkable wind capacity of 40,556 megawatts, while California’s wind capacity lagged far behind at just 6,103 megawatts. Although Texas has enjoyed a substantial advantage over California in wind energy for some time, the dynamic shifted significantly in the solar energy sector. In 2019, Texas produced less than a fifth of the solar energy generated in California. However, Texas made substantial strides, doubling its solar capacity in 2020 and 2021, nearly repeating the feat in 2022. By the beginning of 2023, Texas was closing in on California’s grid-scale solar capacity, trailing by a mere 1,000 megawatts.
So, what drove Texas to ascend to the pinnacle of the nation’s solar power sector in such a short span?
Josiah Neeley, Texas Director and Resident Senior Fellow in energy at the R Street Institute, pointed to the contrasting energy market and regulatory structures of California and Texas as the key factor.
Neeley noted that these two states represent two distinct models for promoting renewable energy deployment. In California, the approach has been heavily reliant on mandates and subsidies. In contrast, Texas has experienced rapid solar energy growth without significant state-driven efforts to incentivize solar power development. The defining feature that has propelled Texas to its current status is the competitive electricity market.
In Texas, virtually anyone with the ambition to generate and sell electricity to the grid can construct power infrastructure and integrate it into the state’s power network. On the consumer side, individuals are free to select their energy providers, including those offering clean energy options. This open market has witnessed substantial growth in consumer demand for clean energy, as explained by Neely.
The Texas model, with its competitive and market-driven approach, has evidently propelled the state to the forefront of grid-scale solar energy, a testament to the dynamism and adaptability of the Lone Star State in the realm of alternative energy sources.