Texas, home to the world’s largest oil reserve and America’s biggest source of coal-fired power, is on the verge of a clean-energy boom.
Wind already supplies about 15 percent of Texas’s electricity, and now developers are about to quadruple the state’s solar capacity, adding enough panels by 2022 to light up all of Dallas. But they won’t just power homes. Solar developers are responding to demand from oil and gas drillers, whose booming operations are gobbling up electricity and pushing prices spiking above $1,000 a megawatt-hour.
The fact that Texas is turning to solar for help when it’s home to some of the cheapest energy resources in the world is the best evidence yet that the technology can compete head on with fossil fuels. Solar is getting built based purely on economics in the state, which isn’t offering the types of incentives that have spurred clean-energy booms elsewhere.
“People are trying to get in as much solar in Texas as they can,” Mike Garland, chief executive officer of San Francisco-based clean energy developer Pattern Energy Group Inc., said in an interview.
Building a solar farm in Texas currently costs about $32 per megawatt-hour, spread over the lifetime of the plant, according to BloombergNEF. Compare that to $38 for a high-efficiency gas plant. Plus, solar farms can be built in six months, while gas plants can take years. That’s crucial for Texas, which needs more power plants as soon as developers can put them up.