How do solar panels work in the Texas Solar Market?

The Texas Solar Market works to help build a reliable power grid. In April 2019, San Antonio based-Mission Solar Energy held their annual fiesta event with sessions on trending topics.

The Texas Solar Power Association Executive Director, Charlie Hemmeline, spoke about the Texas Solar Market.

Texas Solar Power Association Executive Director, Charlie Hemmeline

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), is an integrated grid. Even though, solar is installed in different parts of Texas everything is connected.

The ERCOT grid operator pays attention to the total amount of resources online at any time.

The grid operator supplies the meet and demand to keep the grid on.

“As solar grows they have to be very clear about what we are going to produce, so they can know how to plan and know what they can count on at 3 o’clock on a hot summer day when the grid is maxed out,” said Hemmeline.

   Consumers wonder how do solar panels work or perform as expected? Solar is dependable because we know when the sun is going to shine.

Even though clouds do happen, they don’t happen statewide at the exact same time. In July of 2018, while Texas was experiencing a heatwave, “solar produced almost exactly as expected, in fact, a little more,” said Hemmeline.

   A look at we are at today with the context of the grid is that power is needed. ERCOT measures a planning reserve margin, which right now is at 7.4 percent.

Policy makers would like to have a planning reserve margin of 13.75 percent.

Hemmeline added, “Solar is making an actual grid wide contribution now. We are helping raise this reserve margin because solar is growing more than any other resource and we are actually boosting those reserve margins.” In order for us to attain the other half of the reserve margin, in accordance with policymakers, the bill must pass on distributed generation and consumer protection.

Both of those factors fall under the incentive programs that are available to help homeowners or businesses go solar.

But how do solar panels work for the wholesalers? With all the innovation happening with the economics of solar we are seeing more players getting involved, such as the oil and gas industries.

Hemmeline explained, “The transmission and distribution utilities, such as Oncor, Centerpoint, and AEP are now interested in using storage facilities for distribution level reliability. The Texas rules as they are right now are unclear on if whether they are allowed to do that.”

However, Hemmeline stated there is a bill moving through, “that would give [transmission and distribution utilites] the authorization to contract with a third party provider of storage to provide those storage services if they see it’s cheaper than building new poles and wires.” It caps at 40MW statewide.

The Texas Solar Market will continue to look at the 50,000MW of solar that has been used for recent development in more than 80 counties and all over the state of Texas.