Profile of the Texas renewable energy industry
Texas and oil may be synonymous, but there is a second energy sector that stands out in the state: renewable energy. Clean resources, sustainability, climate change control, resilience, as well as energy security, are jewels that are being polished.
As one of the top states in renewable energy, the Star leads the nation in the amount of wind power produced thanks to its more than 14,000 megawatts of capacity. In addition, the solar industry offers 7,000 jobs in the state and last year alone it grew almost 68 percent.
While solar energy, biomass and biofuels contribute to the state’s economy, the industry leader is wind energy. But the solar is very close. This energy is now the cheapest resource to generate electricity in the state. Suppliers are seeing this sector as a significant economic contribution; and residential and commercial customers look to it to save money and better manage their electricity costs.
Renewable energy is a strategic component of Texas energy independence as dependence on a single source can jeopardize energy security and increase price volatility. Diversification in different sectors (fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable) and in topography (wind in the highlands vs wind in the coast, for example) can help to produce more flexible and vigorous energy.
While renewable energy has grown rapidly in Texas, the industry continues to evolve. Most renewable technologies are not yet accessible compared to fossil fuel generation. However, recent technological growth in shale gas lowered the price of natural gas, leading to a gap in renewable energy to achieve cost parity.
Similarly, the electrical infrastructure must adapt to allow this growth. The success of the wind industry in the state has led to emerging restrictions on transmission capacity. Wind resources are greatest in the west of the state, but most of the population and demand is in the east.
In addition to infrastructure projects, new technologies can provide cost-effective ways to maximize the state’s energy assets such as generation and transmission patterns. Under demand management, consumers agree to reduce or modify electricity use when grid capacity is altered. To do this, incentives are available to large electricity users participating in ERCOT.
Energy storage technologies are being adapted in Texas to mitigate intermittency by absorbing short-term fluctuations in renewable energy production so that customers can receive reliable electrical service. Storage systems also accumulate excess energy for later use when demand is greatest.
Another important issue is waste management – a resource that prevents pollution. One Texas program is the Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste (RENEW), which is a free materials exchange network established by the state legislature in 1987 to promote the reuse or recycling of industrial waste. The network is a marketing channel for industries, companies and government units that want to sell waste and waste for reuse.
INVESTIGATION AND DEVELOPMENT
The interdisciplinary institute at the University of Texas at Austin – Energy Institute – was founded in 2009 to guide university research in energy storage, carbon capture and storage, artificial photosynthesis and other energy technologies. A recent project based on carbon nanotechnology found activated graphene supercapacitors, which is a fast-discharge energy storage device.
The San Antonio Clean Energy Incubator (SACEI) opened its doors in 2011 to foster business activity in the renewable energy sector. SACEI is part of the UTSA Sustainable Energy Research Institute (SERI), which is dedicated to researching sustainable energy technologies.
Since its founding in 1999, the Houston Technology Center (HTC) has supported more than 300 early-stage technology companies, including those in the renewable energy industry.
The Texas A&M Advanced Research Initiative for Sustainable Energy (ARISE) serves as a focal point for scientific research activities at the university in the field of renewable energy.
Zero Energy (ZØE) Research Laboratory at the University of North Texas (UNT) researches and tests alternative energy generation technologies, including solar, wind, and geothermal energy.