Welcome to Exploring Renewable Energy Technology from Bounce Energy! Because the ERCOT portion of Texas can be thought of as a “walled garden,” renewable energy sources in Texas now make up a significant portion of the energy supply mix. It’s also a dynamic technology with new innovations, discoveries, and issues arising every week. Each month, we will examine the latest news in the industry to better understand what (if any) changes might come to the Texas energy supply.
Shifting Stats and Shifting Expectations
One way to better understand how Renewable Energy technology effects the energy mix, not just in Texas but all across the U.S., is to look at the statistics once in a while. Some recent news stories have been showing that in spite of being banished to the fringe provinces of environmentalist dreamers and science fiction in the late 1970s, renewable energy is now shouldering a consistently growing amount of the energy load, wind energy in particular.
In 2016, the U.S. added 8.2 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity, representing 27% of all new generation additions. All told, nine states added 15% or higher. Texas added the most by installing 2.611 GW. However, while Texas may have added the most, Iowa installed the highest percentage, thereby making a commitment to rely on wind power for nearly one third (around 707 MW) of its electricity (Iowa remains a regulated market). Iowa also has the most small wind turbine installations in the U.S. with 9.45 MW. By comparison, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma all generate 25% or better of their electricity with wind power.
In comparison with the whole U.S. generation capacity, wind accounts for 8% of the operating electric generating capacity for 2016, which is more than any other renewable source (though the actual amount generated is closer to 5% due to capacity factor) . Of that total, Texas wind power accounts for around 25%.
Two milestones to keep in mind:
- In March, 2017, electricity generated by wind and solar (including utility-scale plants and small-scale systems) exceeded 10% of total U.S. electricity generation.
- Also in March, 2017 and again in April, 2017, renewables (including hydro) generated more electricity than nuclear power plants for the first time since 1984 because renewables produced electricity more cheaply than nuclear.
In fact, renewable energy has now become so accepted, noncontroversial, and so unexciting that institutional investors, the stodgiest of the stodgy, are now eager to invest money into energy projects. According to a Reuters report, while investors wouldn’t have touched renewable energy projects with a ten foot pole a five or six years ago, they are now regarding it as “a key component of infrastructure investment.” Their chief attraction is that renewable energy projects, such as wind or solar farms, can make power purchase agreements directly with corporations committed to sustainability and make them want to buy green energy. These include companies like Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, Centrica, and L’Oreal.
Recently JPMorgan Chase announced that it has “put a stake in the ground,” committing to sourcing renewable energy for 100% of its energy needs by 2020. As one of the oldest financial institutions in the U.S. with a pile of assets valued at $2.6 trillion, JPMorgan Chase is not only saying that renewable energy is a safe investment but that it also provides a sustainable, long term way for it to continue doing business.