Apr 10, 2024 - News

Texas emerges as top solar and wind producer

Energy generated by solar and wind, 2023
Data: Climate Central; Note: Includes both utility-scale and small-scale solar generation; Chart: Axios Visuals

The cosmological wonderment of this week left us contemplating the awesome power of the sun — and what we're doing to harness renewable energy.

Why it matters: The source of electrons for our lights, air-conditioning and appliances is increasingly important as we ponder our place in the universe.

Driving the news: Texas is a top producer of solar power and wind energy in the country, per a new Axios Generate analysis.

  • Energy from wind and solar installations nationwide is expected to outpace coal-fired electricity this year.
  • And solar power helped keep the lights on during January's Arctic blast in Texas.

The big picture: Solar and wind power generated enough electricity last year to power more than 61 million average American homes, Climate Central says.

State of play: Coal and natural gas remain the top generators in Texas, though power-producers have diversified their portfolio over the years.

The irony: Free market-minded Texas kickstarted its wind energy empire a quarter-century ago with a legislative mandate ordering utility companies to get a certain amount of their energy from renewable power.

  • And then the state, in a move nearly Communist in its sensibility, spread among Texas ratepayers the costs of transmission lines to bring wind energy from the rural parts of the state to Austin and other cities.

Between the lines: Last year, the Texas Legislature excluded wind and solar from a massive tax break program and passed bills to prop up the fossil fuel industry.

  • But the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, President Biden's landmark climate legislation, has spurred production of renewable energy in Texas and across the country.

The intrigue: Higher interest rates, inflation and supply chain issues are spoiling the financial math of some alt-energy investments.

  • In Texas, January's low wind speeds contributed to a 22% drop in power generation by the state's wind farms compared to the same month in 2023.

What we're watching: How the wind and solar boom will help Texas in the summer.

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