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An Assessment and Comparison of Installed Solar and Wind Capacity in Texas

[+] Author Affiliations
Erin Keys, Michael E. Webber

University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

Paper No. ES2008-54148, pp. 89-96; 8 pages
  • ASME 2008 2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability collocated with the Heat Transfer, Fluids Engineering, and 3rd Energy Nanotechnology Conferences
  • ASME 2008 2nd International Conference on Energy Sustainability, Volume 1
  • Jacksonville, Florida, USA, August 10–14, 2008
  • Conference Sponsors: Advanced Energy Systems Division and Solar Energy Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4319-2 | eISBN: 0-7918-3832-3
  • Copyright © 2008 by ASME


This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the installed solar capacity in Texas. While the power generated from grid-tied solar photovoltaic installations can be tracked, an inventory including the capacity of these and other types of solar installations has never been performed. In contrast, installed wind capacity in Texas is closely tracked and widely publicized. Because of this discrepancy, decision-makers have lacked critical information to gauge the appropriateness of solar versus wind power for future installations, complicating their ability to prioritize which renewable power sources to incentivize. The work presented in this paper fills this knowledge gap by providing the methodology and results from a bottoms-up survey of major solar installers, large solar customers, and relevant government agencies (for example government agencies that are responsible for issuing rebates, or those that are major solar customers themselves). Over thirty entities were systematically contacted to obtain proprietary data that were then aggregated to determine the total installed solar capacity in Texas. Both power generation and heating applications are considered, including the following: photovoltaic (on- and off-grid), concentrating solar power (CSP), solar pond, and solar water heating (SWH). Other heating forms such as room and pool heating are not considered. An aggregate figure is presented and then benchmarked against installed wind capacity. Findings reveal that after 30 years and roughly $56 million in installation costs (at approximately $8300/kW), Texas possesses about 6.7 megawatts (MW) of installed solar electric capacity. Comparatively, in over 6 years and an estimated $6.9 billion in installation costs (at approximately $1600/kW), installed wind capacity in Texas approaches 5000 MW, which is more than any other state in the United States. Notably, at least another 8000 MW of new wind projects are in various stages of development, whereas few significant solar projects have been announced. This solar assessment exposes a stark difference in pace, cost and total size of installation for these two power sources, which is the likely experience for many other states. While these differences do not negate solar as a future power option, they raise further questions about the technical, social, and economic barriers each renewable technology faces, as well as the feasibility and design of incentives to further market penetration. Understanding this mixed history for these two power sources offers instructive guidance and useful insights to policymakers nationwide.

Copyright © 2008 by ASME
Topics: Solar energy , Wind



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