Texas, along with much of the South, has been subject to a relentless, prolonged heat wave for several weeks – the kind of climate-fueled extreme weather event that scientists have warned us will happen with increasing frequency. This particular event is so extreme that Texas has been hotter than 99% of the Earth.
But unlike during Winter Storm Uri that blanketed Texas with ice and blackouts in 2021, the state’s grid has so far held up under the immense strain of powering millions of air conditioners cranked up at their highest power, driving peak demand to an all-time high of nearly 81,000 megawatts (MW), easily surpassing the 69,000 MW peak demand during the winter storm.
So, what’s the difference from 2021? How has the grid managed to function with more demand placed on it than ever before?
It’s all thanks to the rapid additions of solar, wind, and grid-scale battery storage in the last two years. Texas has added almost 3,000 MW of wind since Winter Storm Uri, and utility scale solar in the state has doubled every year since 2020, with nearly 10,000 MW of new solar added since 2020.
And here is the amazing statistic that few people know – Texas accounted for nearly 70% of grid battery additions in the U.S. in the first three months of 2023, resulting in a total capacity of 3,300 MW, almost all of which have come online since early 2021. In fact, Texas passed California last year in total installed solar and almost kept pace with California when it comes to new grid battery installations.
But during this historic heat wave, it’s been all these new, low-cost wind, solar and batteries that have kept the grid afloat and Texans cool – in many cases saving lives. Solar and wind provided 35% of statewide power last Tuesday and generated a record 31,500 MW Wednesday, which more than covered the 9,600 MW of electricity lost when extreme heat knocked several natural gas and coal plants offline. And just as solar power started falling in the evening, batteries kicked in immediately to get Texas through the most difficult part of the day when the sun was setting but the ACs were still cranking.