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Texas Surpasses California With Most Installed Solar Power

The state grid operator ERCOT had 18,364 megawatts of solar power capacity on its electric grid at the end of September, which is enough to power almost 3.7 million homes during peak demand periods.

Texas now has the most solar power installed on its power grid in the country, knocking California out of its longtime reign.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator for 90 percent of Texas, had 18,364 megawatts of solar power capacity installed on its grid as of Sept. 30, according to ERCOT data. That's enough electricity to power almost 3.7 million Texas homes during times of peak electricity demand, according to ERCOT.

The California Independent System Operator, the grid operator for 80 percent of California and a small part of Nevada, had 17,277 megawatts of solar power capacity installed on its grid by the end of September, according to CAISO data.

Texas isn't the nation's undisputed solar leader yet, however. California still leads the country in total solar installed as of the second quarter, because the Golden State has far more rooftop solar installed on homes and businesses than does Texas, according to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association. California had 41,675 megawatts of all types of solar installed in the second quarter, compared to Texas's 18,801 megawatts, according to data from the trade association.

California has been the nation's leader in utility-scale solar for the past decade, dwarfing other states in adding solar to the grid for most of that time. But Texas has seen a rapid buildout of utility-scale solar since 2019, nearly doubling its capacity from 2019 to 2020 and again from 2020 to 2021.

That's because the cost of building and operating solar farms has plummeted, propelling their growth on the Texas grid, said Doug Lewin, president of Stoic Energy Consulting.

Unlike California, Texas "markets are driving (the growth of solar) and not policy. It just speaks to how the economics have shifted," Lewin said.

Along with the benefits of decarbonization, the influx of solar power on the Texas power grid has been widely credited as a key factor in helping ERCOT keep the lights on this summer, as Texans using air-conditioning to stay cool in punishingly hot temperatures drove up electricity demand.

But the growth of solar in Texas has created new challenges too. For the first time this summer, the scarcest time on the ERCOT grid was not mid-afternoon but around 7 p.m., when the sun sets and solar power ramps down yet electricity demand remains high, creating situations where electricity demand comes close to available supply, ERCOT CEO Pablo Vegas has said at various public events. Solar power declining at sunset was one of several reasons ERCOT asked Texans to conserve electricity use nearly a dozen times this summer in the late afternoon.

(c)2023 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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