Houston — More than 645 MW of solar capacity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas neared commercial operation in January, which will boost the state's solar nameplate capacity by more than 28% when that capacity comes online, though solar projects totaling 380 MW were canceled in the month, a new report shows.
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"Strong solar output could easily put a damper on super-peak pricing, but also runs the risk of increasing volatility, especially in instances of high [forced generation] outages," Travis Whalen, a power market analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics, said Tuesday.
ERCOT's latest Generation Interconnection Status Report, dated Sunday, shows the 241-MW Misae Solar project approved for synchronization in Childress County in northwest Texas and the 204.5-MW Holstein Solar project approved for synchronization in Nolan County in West Texas. Also, ERCOT has approved the 200-MW Rambler Solar project for energization in Tom Green County, also in West Texas.
Under ERCOT rules, projects must first get approved for energization, then synchronization, before being approved for commercial operation.
The only projects approved for commercial operation in January were two wind repower projects, which did not add or subtract from ERCOT's capacity.
In addition to solar projects totaling 380 MW that were canceled in January, the 58-MW Westoria Storage project was canceled, and ERCOT moved four solar projects totaling 492 MW into the "Inactive Projects" category, meaning they have failed to meet certain progress benchmarks to be considered more likely to be completed.
Platts Analytics' Whalen saw little to diminish the likelihood of continued strong solar growth in ERCOT in 2020.
"These are pretty modest cancellations honestly, and the total capacity of solar projects in the queue actually grew by nearly 5 GW," Whalen said. "If anything, this just further reinforces the winning position solar generators are in at present. Not to mention, battery capacity in the queue jumped by another 1.2 GW."
Totals in the queue
The GIS Report shows 119.4 GW of capacity under study, up from 111.7 GW in the previous month's GIS Report, in the following categories:
- Solar: 73.6 GW, up from 67.8 GW
- Wind: 30.6 GW, up from 30.2 GW
- Battery: 9 GW, up from 7.8 GW
- Natural gas: 6.6 GW, unchanged
Beau Freyou, director of IVG Energy, a Houston-based energy brokerage, said Tuesday that his organization is "not surprised to see some new solar projects being canceled since they don't make financial sense with such low prices in ERCOT."
But Whalen said the economics of solar makes more sense than adding natural gas capacity.
"Just for comparison, the 200-MW Holstein solar farm synchronizing now started construction in June 2019," Whalen said. "The 100-MW CitVict gas plant that came online last month began construction in April 2018. While that [gas] plant had a lower upfront cost per megawatt, the longer lead time for gas plants makes it extremely difficult to justify large investments."