The collapse of its energy grid may make Texas the next solar hot spot
Texas rooftops plastered with solar panels in 2021, and maybe a battery in the garage, may become more common after one of the worst winter storms in Texas history. The one-two punch of soaring electricity prices and massive outages following the collapse of the power system after the Feb. 15 storm is likely to be a turning point for the solar industry in the Lone Star State.
Texas already has 780,000 households with home solar systems, second only after California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. But with only about 1% of households on solar, it lags far behind in per capita installation. Relatively low energy prices mean that the incentive to switch to residential solar is still lower than places like Nevada which tops the list with 1.3 megawatt of home solar capacity per person, more than 10 times higher than Texas.
This month may change that. The state came to a halt as temperatures fell to -11 Fahrenheit, the second coldest week in history, bursting pipes, freezing pipelines, and knocking out power for millions. At times, the gap between demand and supply widened to about 30 gigawatts (just under half the state’s peak demand) as Texas grid operators scrambled to avoid damaging equipment that could have left the state in the dark for months. That shortfall sent electricity prices soaring 10,000%. For some customers on variable-rate plans who were fully exposed to wholesale price fluctuations, utility bills followed suit. One customer of electricity supplier Griddy posted a screenshot of a $3,800 utility bill to power his 1300-square-foot home for the last two weeks.