New research released yesterday found that rooftop solar could have supplied more than enough electricity to meet the shortfall on all but two of the 13 days when power production fell short of forecasted demand a year after the big Texas freeze that knocked out the state’s power system and killed at least 246 people.
According to a paper titled “Rooftop solar and the 2021 Texas power crisis” by Environment America Research & Policy Center, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, and Frontier Group, even on the two days when the gap between supply and demand was the widest (February 15-16, 2021), rooftop solar could have made up approximately 40-60 percent of that gap by significantly reducing the need for electricity from centralised power plants.
The research compares the role of solar during the freeze to the role it could play in reducing the impact of future extreme weather events on the power grid. The authors used data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to calculate how much power could have been generated by rooftop solar in Texas during the 2021 storm if every suitable rooftop in the state had been fitted with solar panels.
Texas has had a 123-fold rise in solar power over the last decade, and the state’s solar capacity has increased significantly in the last year alone. According to the research, Texas would currently produce almost 70% more solar power than it would a year ago under the same conditions as the February 2021 frost event.
However, the majority of rooftops that are solar-ready go unused. If those rooftops were used for solar, Texas could add 97,800 megawatts of clean power generating capacity, which would be enough to satisfy nearly one-third of the state’s electricity needs in 2020 and more than 15 times the total operating capacity at the time of the 2021 power outage.
Rooftop solar alone will not fix Texas’ energy problems, according to the study. Energy storage, expanded electricity transmission capacity, and improved energy efficiency are all needed to make the state’s power infrastructure more resilient.