Texas is becoming a leading state nationally in the use of wind and solar energy.
Photo: AFP – Agencia AFP
In north Texas, where commercial oil production began in the United States, windmills and solar panels dot the landscape. Like black gold, the Lone Star State now leads the renewable energy business.
“Corsicana and Navarro County produced massive oil for the first time in Texas. It’s a long history going back to the late 19th century in the energy business,” explains John Boswell, the county’s director of economic development.
Proud of the oil that built its wealth for decades, Texas dedicates land for clean energy. “Now that there is a boost for renewable energy (…) Navarro continues as a leader in the region,” adds Boswell.
Conservative and advocate of fossil fuels, Texas also favors clean energy businesses now that many companies have goals to reduce their carbon footprint.
“It’s a state where it’s relatively easy to get permits for settlements with landowners. And then, to build quickly”, explains Frank Demaille, executive vice president for Transformation and Geography of the French firm Engie.
Texas, new leader in renewable energy
In Dawson, Navarro County, Engie last week inaugurated a wind farm with 88 mills and 300 MW of capacity, as they have their largest consumers in the industry. It extends throughout Limestone and Navarro, adding to dozens of projects of this type in the state.
It also started operations at its solar farm (250 MW) and a battery energy storage facility in Abbott, Hill County.
They are rural areas, with wide fields and cattle, where the neighbors play cards or billiards in the town bar and where some Confederate army flags still fly as part of history.
According to the American Clean Power organization, in 2022 Texas was the state with the largest number of corporate clean energy contracts in the country (35%), and concentrates 20% of the projects in the field.
Although Texas is thought of as the flagship of oil and gas, it is a state “rich in natural resources (…) they have a lot of wind, a lot of sun and they are very good at managing the different resources,” says Frenchman Demaille.
He adds that “because of the war in Ukraine (in Europe) we are importing more gas from the United States, and especially from Texas. And for many years they have been very good at getting the right schemes in place and facilitating the development of wind and solar power.”
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Combination of energy sources
With refineries and petrochemicals, Texas is the state that consumes the most electricity and supplies its almost 30 million inhabitants, with its own network and disconnected from the rest of the United States.
In 2021, it suffered an icy storm that left millions without service and some 200 deaths, so it is in constant search of supply sources to meet increased demand at critical times.
According to ERCOT, the entity that ensures supply, in 2023 the main source of generation is natural gas (42%), followed by wind (29%), coal (11%) and solar (11%), while 7% corresponds to nuclear and hydraulic energy, among others. In 2021, 24% of the energy came from wind sources and less than 5% was solar.
“We have traditional fuels, but now Texas is a leader in clean energy. I think what you will see is a combination of both,” says Jeff Montgomery, president of Blattner Energy, which builds some 400 renewable energy projects in the country.
The Biden administration’s IRA plan, approved in 2022, which provides greater incentives for those who participate in this industry, was added to the already existing federal subsidies.
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“Show me your worth”
From the house of John Null, a 42-year-old engineer, you can see towers from different projects, which at night have blinking red lights for air safety.
In a freezing storm last month that left them without power for a few days, “it would have been great to have some kind of switch—since these things [molinos] they were still spinning—it gave power to the community,” he says of the towers that are connected to a larger network and not to a specific neighborhood.
“Show me your value and you will have people inside,” he adds.
Meanwhile, an urban project will take advantage of an old garbage dump to install a solar farm in an impoverished neighborhood near downtown Houston, the fourth most populous city in the United States.
“There is a need for electricity (…) This year we will begin construction of a 50 MW solar installation and 150 MW battery storage,” says Paul Curran, CEO of BQ Energy.
A former executive in the oil sector, he believes that there are no discrepancies between industries. “It’s not very difficult if you do wind and solar in the right places for the right market. It is very well received by energy experts and people in the oil industry,” he adds.
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