Solar and wind power continue to grow as energy sources for Texas; in San Antonio, CPS will soon add more solar power

Renewable electricity sources have contributed more than a third of the electricity to the Texas grid so far this year, eclipsing the amount generated by wind and solar farms just a year ago.

Renewables are also slowly overtaking fossil fuels on the state power grid.

Solar power has grown exponentially in Texas over the past few years. In the first three months of this year, solar farms generated 85% more electricity than the same period last year. In March alone, solar generated more than 1,800 gigawatt hours of electricity in Texas, more than double the amount generated in Texas in 2016.

With more than 4,600 gigawatt hours generated in the first quarter, solar farms contributed a record 5% of the state’s electricity. That’s almost four times the amount they generated in the first quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, wind turbines have generated 29% of the state’s electricity so far this year. That was second only to natural gas, which is still the primary fuel used for power generation in Texas.

After overtaking coal as a public energy source in 2020, wind has continued to extend its lead over fuel. Coal-fired plants supplied 19% of the state’s electricity in the first quarter, unchanged from a year ago. But the ratios have been reversed for five years. In 2017, coal generated nearly a third of Texas’ electricity, while wind turbines contributed 17%.

While natural gas remains the most common generation fuel in Texas, wind and solar power have apparently supplanted some gas-fired generation in 2022. Natural gas-fired plants produced 35% of Texas’s electricity. ‘State so far this year, continuing a 42% decline. last year and 46% in 2020.

The same trend is seen in San Antonio, where city-owned CPS Energy generated nearly 30 percent of the city’s electricity using natural gas, more than any other source. But that was down from 33% a year earlier.

The most recent annual data available for the CPS generation covers the period from October 2020 to October 2021.

During this period, CPS obtained 13% of its electricity from renewable resources and 28% from its nuclear plant in South Texas. Statewide, nuclear power plants have supplied 12% of Texas’ electricity so far this year, a slight increase from the first quarter of last year.

CPS Energy’s JK Spruce coal-fired power plant, meanwhile, generated 23% of San Antonio’s electricity during that one-year period, but it’s also among the largest sources of pollution in the country. air in the area.

And CPS could change the way it generates electricity in the next few years.

The utility is expected to sign contracts by mid-year to purchase power from multiple solar parks, which could add 900 megawatts of solar capacity for the utility. It currently has 500 megawatts of solar capacity.

CPS is also preparing to close its Braunig and OW Sommers gas-fired power stations, which were built in the 1960s and early 1970s. The utility will close these in 2025 or 2026, likely replacing the electricity that they produce by committing to purchase electricity from an existing gas-fired plant in South Texas.

By around 2028, CPS is expected to close one of the coal-fired units at the Spruce plant and convert the second, larger unit to run on cleaner-burning natural gas.

CPS acting CEO Rudy Garza said the utility will review the future of the Spruce coal plant this year and ask its five-member board to vote on a plan by the end of the day. of the year.

“We need to have access to natural gas capacity that can be turned on when solar power isn’t there,” Garza said. “That’s the trick we’re trying to figure out.”

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Rosemary C. Kearney