Texas Shatters Own Solar Power Record, Weird Political Situation Or Not

Texas Shatters Own Solar Power Record Weird Political Situation Or Not

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

There they go again. The state of Texas has emerged as a renewable energy pace-setter in the US, even though some of its top public officials don’t have very nice things to say about clean power. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. In the latest indication that the big dollars are flowing into decarbonization, Texas now has more solar power than coal power.

Solar Power Smashes Records In Texas

Texas burst out in front of the wind power pack in the early 2000’s, never to look back. An assist from state officials who approved a major new transmission network helped to kick the wind industry into high gear.

“In 2022, Texas generated 26% of all U.S. wind-sourced electricity, leading the nation for the 17th year in a row,” the US Energy Information Agency noted in its latest update.

“Wind power surpassed the state’s nuclear generation for the first time in 2014 and exceeded coal-fired generation for the first time in 2020,” they added.

Solar power activity in Texas has gathered a bit less attention, but that is about to change now that the state’s solar industry is up to speed.

The organization Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis crunched the latest numbers and dropped them into the CleanTechnica email hopper on February 14 under the title, “Momentous changes on the way in ERCOT as Texas renewable transition rolls on.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

Writing for IEEFA, Dennis Wamsted noted that the Texas grid recorded a solar power jump of 46% in January this year compared to January 2023, climbing from 1.5 million megawatt-hours to 2.2 million.

“The sharp increase was highlighted by three solar records during the month. The first occurred Jan. 16 at the height of a strong winter cold snap. Output climbed to 14,837 megawatts (MW), accounting for 23% of total system demand. The second two records were set on Jan. 28, when solar hit new highs both for generation at 15,222 MW and for market share at 36.1%,” Wamsted observed.

“Those records were short-lived, as solar generation smashed through 16,000 MW on Feb. 13, topping 16,500 MW for an hour in the morning. At that point, and for some 7.5 hours during the day, solar provided more than 30% of the system’s power needs,” Wamsted added.

More Solar Power For Texas

Texas is in an unusual position, grid-wise. In other parts of the US, grid operators can trade electricity with various states to balance daily needs and respond to unexpected shortfalls.

In contrast, Texas is a grid almost entirely to itself. About 90% of the state comes under the umbrella of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) grid operator, and they are pretty much on their own when catastrophe strikes. That is why ERCOT has been pursuing new in-state renewable energy resources, despite state legislation seeking to protect the oil and gas industry.

As noted by IEEFA, Texas had more than 22,000 megawatts of solar power under its belt as of January 2024, and the total could climb above 30,000 this year once all the new projects come online.

“This new capacity sets the stage for a momentous shift at ERCOT this year, when solar generation is likely to top coal-fired generation,” Wamsted emphasized.

If coal power stakeholders expect to play catch-up with solar power, they better guess again. Aside from the added solar capacity this year, 2025 should see another 13,000+ megawatts come online when the dust settles.

That’s just counting utility-scale solar projects. Earlier this week Houston Public Media took note of a new report from the Texas branch of the organization Environment America, which ran the numbers on the residential solar market in Texas. According to the report, rooftop solar installations contributed a total of 2,575 gigawatt-hours to the state’s solar power profile in 2022. Only Arizona and California placed higher.

What About Natural Gas?

Yes, what about it? Output from natural gas power plants continues ticking upwards in Texas. Even so, IEEFA anticipates that 2025 will see another momentous shift take place in the state’s energy profile. Wind and solar power together are expected to surge past natural gas as the single largest energy resource.

To be clear, wind and solar power are not replacing fossil energy production. Texas is still the nation’s #1 oil and gas producer. “In 2022, Texas accounted for 42% of the nation’s crude oil production and 27% of its marketed natural gas production,” the Energy Information Agency noted last year.

However, the state’s unique regulatory environment, and its heavy reliance on in-state electricity generation, have combined to make it a hotbed of cleantech experimentation. If something new is happening in the cleantech world, you can bet it’s happening in Texas, and eventually it will appear far beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.

After all, the University of Texas in Austin was the home state of the late John B. Goodenough, the Nobel prizewinner widely credited with spearheading the development of modern lithium-ion batteries used by electric vehicles all over the world.

More Energy Storage For More Solar Power

As for the future, new energy storage technology will help shepherd even more solar power into the Texas grid. Battery-type energy storage systems have become commonplace, but they only provide for a few hours of storage. That’s enough to cover daily cycles of electricity use, but as more wind and solar power enter the grid, the Energy Department is looking for long-duration storage systems of 10 hours or more.

Among the long-duration energy projects to cross the CleanTechnica radar in recent months is a pumped hydro gravity storage system under development by the Texas firm Quidnet. Instead of pumping water to an above-ground reservoir, though, the new system deploys underground rock formations.

Another twist on the gravity storage theme is represented by the firm Renewell. The company is currently testing its system in Texas, deploying unused oil wells to raise and lower a cylindrical weight. In a sustainability twofer, the system would also double as a well capping and monitoring solution.

Yet another project of interest surfaced last summer, when the Irish firm Corre Energy announced its intention to acquire a massive compressed air energy storage system under development by the Texas firm Contour Energy.

“Located in the West Texas region of ERCOT, the utility-scale storage project will be capable of continuously discharging 280MW of electrical power for up to 15 hours, equating to 4.2GWh of fully dispatchable electric energy storage capacity,” Corre explains.

Despite all the renewable energy activity stirring in Texas, state lawmakers seem determined to protect fossil energy stakeholders, leveraging the provisions of two state laws, passed in 2021, that obstruct investment in renewable energy.

However, the tide may already be turning. Two bills that would have placed onerous new requirements on wind and solar power projects went down in flames during the 2023 legislative session. Other bills negatively impacting the renewable energy sector fared no better.

Last year the Indian conglomerate Waaree Group tapped Texas to host a new massive solar module factory, aiming to fill orders all across the US. That may may have cooled the enthusiasm for mounting legislative attacks on renewable energy, though anything could happen as the 2024 election cycle heats up.

Follow me @tinamcasey on Bluesky, Threads, Post, and LinkedIn.

Image: Solar power edges out coal power in Texas (courtesy of IEEFA, based on data from the US Energy Information Agency).

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica TV Video

I don’t like paywalls. You don’t like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we’ve decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But…


Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!


Thank you!



CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.


Leave a Reply