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Wind, Solar Energy Make Their Mark Deep In The Heart Of Texas

Photo Courtesy Bill Mead

It might be a long time before Texas sheds its image as the center of the United States oil and gas universe. However, the Lone Star State has also gained recognition for its thriving renewable energy industry. 

As of 2023, Texas ranked fifth in the U.S. in solar jobs with about 10,350, Forbes reported. Nearly 1.9 million homes are powered by solar panels in Texas, putting it second behind only California (with 10.5 million). Texas also produces more wind power than any other state.

The state continues to be a national leader in renewable energy despite some pushback by lawmakers. Solar energy has been particularly robust so far in 2024. In January, CleanTechnica reported that the Texas grid recorded a 46% year-over-year increase in solar power to 2.2 million megawatts, citing data from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar 

The sharp increase was “highlighted by three solar records during the month,” the IEEFA’s Dennis Wamsted told Clean Technica. “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%.”

But those records were “short-lived,” Wamstead added, as “solar generation smashed through 16,000 MW on Feb. 13.” Solar megawatts could climb above 30,000 this year as new projects come online, setting the stage for a “momentous shift” at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s electrical grid. Wamsted told CleanTechnica that solar generation is “likely to top coal-fired generation” in 2024.

As The Business Download previously reported, one of the newer entrants in Texas solar energy is Trina Solar, a China-based provider of photovoltaic (PV) modules and smart energy solutions. 

In September 2023, Trina Solar announced plans to invest more than $200 million to build a solar photovoltaic manufacturing facility in Wilmer, Texas. The plant will span more than 1 million square feet. 

Wind energy has had an even bigger impact in Texas. Ross Baldick, an emeritus professor in the Chandra Family Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, told CNET in a January interview that the state has an advantage over other parts of the country in harnessing wind power because of its existing transmission capabilities. It allows wind energy in the western part of the state to be transmitted to big cities further east, such as Dallas and Houston.

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar  

“Most other places that are very windy don’t have many people or transmission [capabilities],” Baldick said. “Texas was unique in that it could get things going without having to build transmission [in wind-rich areas].”

Texas has also benefited from federal subsidies that made it more feasible and affordable for wind turbines and wind-power production projects “to get off the ground,” according to Baldick. 

A 2021 winter storm knocked out power for millions of Texans, causing some division in the state. However, many experts pointed to the state’s unique standalone grid for much of the blame.

Photo Courtesy Trina Solar 

Likewise, as CleanTechnica reported, legislative efforts that would have added restrictions on clean energy failed in 2023. Time will only tell, but the growth of renewables is currently evident in the second-largest state in the U.S.


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