Houston We Have the Solution
By Dragana Spasojevic - August 2019
When it comes to PV utility-scale projects - Texas is thinking big. So far, 3,028.61 MW are in the pipeline up to date, but economic growth increased the demand for energy and development of utility-scale projects. The total share of electricity generating from solar is 0.99%. According to SEIA, 9,115 MW from solar panels are going to be installed in the next five years.
The distribution of utility-scale PV development follows a clear trend on the US landscape. A large number of the projects are located in Texas where the energy demands are particularly high and requirements of RE targets are spurring the development.
In a time of coal plant retirements, due to uncompetitive coal prices and a 32% fall in the cost of solar panel installation in the last 5 years, there will be no significant changes in economic terms. Besides improving renewable portfolio dramatically, 400 to 1,000 temporary jobs will be created per site during the construction phase, and 50 to 300 permanent jobs per plant will follow. According to ERCOT’s overall data, Texas is looking into a bright future.
The Plans Are Ambitious
The overwhelming price drops in PV modules are attributable to ramped production and oversupply, which have led to lower costs of solar even as incentive programs dry up. That should make getting projects underway easier. But despite all respectable industry figures and growing popular climate consensus, it seems, all is still not rosy on the clean renewable energy front in Texas, especially when it comes to developing large-scale utility projects.
A host of issues may keep such future projects from being realized. Challenges posed by permits as well as gaining approvals from the utilities and grid operators may affect the pace of development in a solar plant expansion. Existing, high-capacity power transmission lines near solar powerplant areas will help reduce costs related to upgrading such lines, and finding a place to interconnect such large facilities, often far from major population areas is also tricky.
In the last two quarters of 2019, Texas will join the gigawatt club, with planned 1.3244 GW utility-scale solar plants ready to switch on. In the following years, a quantum leap in solar deployment will be achieved only with large scale solar power plants.
Next year’s expectations with 13,143.38 MW capacity from solar power plants are realistic, but there will certainly be some percentage of deviations, due to the shutdown of projects by developers. Expectations for 2021 seem ambitious, with 42,104.65 MW capacity from solar power plants in queue for interconnection. But, according to reports from ERCOT, the question is how many solar power plants will become a reality. Going through various stages when planning and applying for capacity, a significant number of solar plant projects successfully complete all phases but fail at the last, but the most important phase - securing project financing.
Misae Solar Park II Setting the Beat
Texas shows considerable dynamics in the development of utility-scale projects. At the end of 2018. Misae Solar Park LLC announced the completion of its “Misae Solar Park II” with a capacity of 517 MW AC/692 MW DC located in Childress, Texas and is considered to be one of the largest solar investment opportunities in ERCOT and in the USA. In a recent statement, Misae Solar Park II will achieve mechanical operation in March 2021. It is the second phase of 324 MW DC Phase I that was sold in 2018. to Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.
Misae Solar Park II, scheduled for completion in two years, have a solid location with available transmission capacity and will interconnect to Tesla’s substation’s 345 kV line.
Deep Cuts in Global Emissions
Misae Solar Park II will be located on 3,800 acres of agricultural land. Although the question of investment justification is raised, given the total area which the plant will leave without agricultural yields, solar technology will still tackle climate change. Power supply for 129,000 homes will come from Misae Solar Park II pipeline and will reduce the emission of 820,000 tons of carbon dioxide. This toxic gas has the fastest growing value. Once released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is absorbed in oceans and soil, where it remains for thousands of years. Given that the lungs of Earth, Amazonian rainforests, suffered immeasurable damage in this year’s wildfires, we need to count on every watt from renewable energy to hold the increase in global temperatures below 35 .6 ⁰F, as determined by the Paris Agreement in 2016.
Only Change is Consistent
The demand for solar power systems has seen significant growth in 2019. After all, when it comes to projects in challenging dimensions, the developers from theTexas seldom shy away and always seem to be ready to think big.
Product developments, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, more options for operational scalability and a wide variety of applications will play a significant role in achieving a low carbon future, energy prices parity and economic growth. Solar companies’ commitment to providing widespread, clean and affordable energy is helping to drive the growth of the solar market in the USA. Despite market changes and challenges, the future of utility-scale solar power systems looks bright nonetheless.
The Texas solar energy market is near reaching the momentum it needs to achieve the expansion targets for the coming years, especially for 2021. According to ERCOT, it can be ascertained that instead of large scale companies these days smaller players are taking the Texas market in order to capture a share of the spoils in the tied-up solar market. Newcomers are beginning to offer serious competition, despite knowing that they can’t compete in some ways with the bigger solar power plant developers. The reality is that sunlight is full of energy and Texas is so far poised for growth.