Due to abundance of solar radiance and land availability, Texas is poised to lead the country in solar. Already, Texas is well on its way. As of April 2023,12,757 MW megawatts (MW) had signed interconnection agreements with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the region's Independent System Operator (ERCOT Fact Sheet). In addition to Texas’s suitability for solar, a shift towards solar will benefit Texans by increasing energy independence, improving grid reliability, meeting growing energy demand, and improving air quality. Some compelling reasons for expanding solar in Texas are listed below.
- Energy Security
- Small Scale Over Large Scale
- Meet Growing Energy Demand
- Improved Air Quality
- Economics and Financial Stability
- Compliance with Senate Bill 898
- Evaluate Solar Potential
Availability: Texas is blessed with one of the greatest solar resources in the country. Positioned in the southwest with low tree coverage, Texas has the second greatest technical potential for photovoltaic (PV) rooftop installations and is additionally well-suited for utility-scale installations in west Texas that can take advantage of the westward concentration of solar radiance (see Figures 1 and 2) and the recently built Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) transmission lines.
Energy Security: Solar is an abundant local resource, and expansion of solar can help Texans (and all Americans) improve energy independence.
Resiliency: To improve the reliability of energy for critical facilities during extreme weather, and other events that would stress the ERCOT grid, installing solar panels and storage projects can be a cost-effective resilience strategy. Similar to the effect of a microgrid, solar panels and storage projects combined with energy efficiency measures can lower energy demand, help reduce peak usage, and provide back-up power during times of outages. (NCTCOG)
Small Scale Over Large Scale:The potential of solar panel farms could be limited due to the permitting restrictions set by Senate Bill 624. This bill requires every owner of a solar or wind farm to hold a permit licensed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. To receive this license, an owner must submit an environmental impact statement, submit an affidavit of names, and addresses of those who may be affected, and host a hearing for those within 25 miles of the environmental activity, amongst other things. (SB 624) This bill has been passed by the senate, and, as of June 2023, is in the House of Representative’s State Affairs committee. (Texas Legislature Online) Although it has not been officially signed into law, SB 624 presents risks to large scale solar. This is one of the benefits of small scale solar, as this bill does not apply to distributed generation. Residential owners of solar panels will not need to obtain licensing from the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
Meet Growing Energy Demand: In terms of population and economy, Texas is one of the fastest growing states. The Texas population is forecasted to grow from 25.1 million in 2010 to anywhere from 31.2 to 54.4 million by 2050 (Texas Demographic Center). In response to such population growth, there is a need to generate more electricity to keep up with demand. Texas will need more electricity to power homes and businesses, and much of it could come from renewable energy sources such as solar. Furthermore, commercial and residential customers across the state are now asking for solar energy options.
Efficiency: Much solar is produced and used at the same site, which reduces efficiency losses associated with the transmission system.
Improved Air Quality: Solar is a zero-emission technology. Increased deployment of solar has the potential to help reduce harmful emissions that contribute to ozone formation and health concerns. To learn more about air quality in North Central Texas, visit NCTCOG’s air quality homepage.
Economics and Financial Stability: Due to a combination of federal incentives and falling hardware and installation costs, solar is beginning to reach grid parity with conventional energy sources. In some cases, it is possible to contract solar electricity at lower rates than conventional sources (per kWh), such as in the case of the City of Georgetown. In addition to being cost-competitive with higher emitting energy sources, solar is less exposed to price volatility associated with the economics of oil & gas. Additionally, solar contracts can be signed for 20-25 years at stable prices which translate into a stable bill for energy end-users.
Compliance with Senate Bill 898: Senate Bill 898 requires municipalities in nonattainment areas to set goals to reduce their electrical consumption by 5% each year for ten years, beginning in September 2011.
Local and national solar potential can be evaluated using federal tools including the EPA RE-Powering Mapper and the DOE Solar Prospector (works best using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers). Both tools are designed to identify sites suitable for solar installations; the Solar Prospector is focused on suitability for utility-scale solar plants.
The EPA RE-Powering Mapper is available for use with Google Earth, or the data can be downloaded as a GIS shapefile. For links and instructions on both, visit RE-Powering Mapping and Screening Tools.
NCTCOG has used the RE-Powering Mapping Tool to create maps of solar energy potential within each regional boundary across the state of Texas. Check out the map of the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission for a closer look at what information is available! To request the data or map, contact us!
Department of Environmental Quality (DOE). "Innovative Data Energy Applications"
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "RE-Powering America's Land" (March 2023).
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "RE-Powering Mapping and Screening Tools" (November 2020).
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) "ERCOT Fact Sheet" (June 2023).
Texas Demographic Center "Texas Population Projections 2010 to 2050" (January 2019).
Texas Legislature "SB 989" (September 2007).
Texas Legislature Online "SB 642" (April, 2023).
Texas Legislature Online "SB 62 History" (June 2023).
Texas Solar Power Association, "Solar in Texas: Current Status and Future Projections" (February 2017).
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic Technical Potential in the United States: A Detailed Assessment" (January 2016).
United States Census Bureau, "Five of the Nation’s Eleven Fastest-Growing Cities are in Texas" (May 2016).
North Central Texas Council of Governments, "Mobility 2040: The Metropolitan Transportation Plan for North Central Texas"
North Central Texas Council of Government, "Best Management Practices for Incorporating Energy Resilience into Hazard Mitigation Planning" (Augest 2022).