Renewable generation making major inroads on the grid in Texas and California
Energize Weekly, May 4, 2022
The steady increase in renewable energy generation – primarily wind and solar – is beginning to show signs of dramatically impacting electric grids around the country as it claims a larger and larger share of electricity production.
In the first quarter of 2022, 34 percent of the dispatched power in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid came from wind and solar facilities.
On March 29, wind turbines in the lower 48 states were the second largest source of electricity for the day – after natural gas, surpassing coal and nuclear – generating 2,101 gigawatts-hours, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
And on the afternoon of April 3, 97.6 percent of the electricity on the California grid came from renewable generation, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) reported.
The national wind-generating peak and the solar peak in California both got a boost from seasonal metrological conditions.
“Renewable peaks typically occur in the spring, due to mild temperatures and the sun angle allowing for an extended window of strong solar production,” CAISO said.
The EIA said that while wind generation performance varies throughout the year, it tends to be highest during the spring and lowest in mid to late summer.
Still, while the wind and solar peak performances were brief, renewable power advocates say they are a sign.
“When we see renewable energy peaks like this, we are getting to re-imagine what the grid will look like for generations to come,” Ashutosh Bhagwat, chairman of the CAISO board, said in a statement. “These moments help crystallize the vision of the modern, efficient and sustainable grid of the future.”
The trend looks to be bolstered by the steady addition of more renewable generation.
The EIA is forecasting that solar will make up nearly half the 46.2 gigawatts of new utility-scale generation to be installed in the U.S. in 2022. Wind will account for about 16 percent. Together, they will make up nearly two-thirds of all new capacity. Natural gas will tally 21 percent of the new generating capacity for the year.
By 2023, the EIA projects that renewable generation will have a 23 percent share of the country’s total generating capacity.
“The renewable share is projected to increase as nuclear and coal-fired generation decrease and the natural gas-fired generation share remains relatively constant,” the EIA said. “By 2030, renewables will collectively surpass natural gas to be the predominant source of generation in the United States.”
The most durable shift in generation came in ERCOT where wind and solar accounted for more than a third of electricity for the entire first quarter of 2022, even as demand for electricity grew, according to an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
Electricity demand was up 9 percent for the quarter to 95.1 megawatt-hours, while wind generation grew by 14 percent in the first three months of 2022, and solar was up 85 percent. Wind and solar made up 71 percent of the capacity additions during the quarter.
Wind and solar installations produced 32.2 million megawatt-hours for the quarter.
“The transition that first saw renewables catch and then pass coal-fired generation is now on the horizon for gas,” Dennis Wamsted, an IEEFA analyst, wrote. “That this is occurring in a market where electricity demand is still growing strongly shows that the renewable transition is possible across the U.S.—and sooner than many think.”