October 24, 2018 Read More →

Analyst says solar plus storage will be a game changer in Texas power market

Platts:

Solar energy — increasingly paired with battery storage — is likely to be the “next big thing” in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, attendees of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance annual GridNEXT conference learned Monday.

During a workshop about the Texas power market, Peter Kelly-Detwiler, principal of the NorthBridge Energy Partners consultancy in Lexington, Massachusetts, pointed out that ERCOT has about 20,000 MW of solar projects in the interconnection queue, which would represent an exponential increase in solar capacity from today’s roughly 1.5 GW.

Not long ago, coal-fired generation was considered among the least-expensive resources, but at an average cost of $50 to $65/MWh today, it is second only to peaking gas turbine units, Kelly-Detwiler said. In contrast, renewable power has costs ranging about $10/MWh, nuclear power costs range from $15 to $20/MWh and natural gas combined-cycle power ranges from $25 to $35/MWh, according to his written presentation.

The increasing efficiency of hydraulic fracturing in exploration and production of natural gas “has been responsible for the decline of coal — it hasn’t been renewables,” Kelly-Detwiler said. But as solar and wind technologies improve in cost and efficiency, “the playing field continues to tilt in favor of these relatively new technologies,” he said.

“Texas is going to be a big part of that, based on what we see in the interconnection queue,” Kelly-Detwiler said. “Solar is going to be the next big thing in ERCOT in terms of game changers.” Adding solar in Texas makes sense because it can smooth out the power supply curve that often becomes volatile as wind generation waxes and wanes, Kelly-Detwiler said.

But solar power presents challenges as well, especially when behind-the-meter rooftop solar destroys power demand during peak hours but causes a massive increase in demand as the sun sinks in the west. Battery storage is an obvious choice, and the technologies are improving, but the conversion of transportation from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles is likely to provide the tipping point, Kelly-Detwiler said. When that first wave of old EV batteries comes in, “it’s going to be so dirt cheap that it’s going to fundamentally change” power markets, Kelly-Detwiler said.

More: Solar-plus-storage likely the ‘next big thing’ in ERCOT: expert

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