Why Texas’s Grid Is Built for EVs & Backup
Last Updated on
Why San Antonio’s grid capacity will prove an undeniable point about the future of renewable energy around the world.
Did you know you could power New York City for nearly 32 days with the excess solar energy Texas produces on its power grid in a single day?
I’ll take all this leftover power to shed some extra light on why this is the case, and how it can be leveraged to everyone’s benefit.
The Logical Case for the Use of Electric Vehicles in San Antonio
Many states where solar is popular have mild weather fluctuations and temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit at most times of the year, such as California. These states have power grids where their “peak generation” time is only a slight change from from their “baseline generation.” This requires little need for managing or controlling the grid in these areas.
By contrast, in San Antonio and many other cities, there are major weather swings and variabilities in temperature. This means plenty of unused grid capacity and, therefore, room to utilize electric vehicles. The key variable, in conjunction with the capacity caused by weather fluctuation, is that the grid capacity must be timed appropriately to match up or “pair” with variations in demand.
Great, so what does that actually mean?
It means plenty of policy makers are missing out on a huge opportunity to financially incentivize consumers to use electric vehicles with solar, and plenty of consumers are missing out on an even larger opportunity to charge their electric vehicles at night with leftover power from the grid. Even without policies to incentivize this, it’s still a smart option for consumers.
It also means the grid will be in a poor position to meet our usage patterns in certain locations without intervention. A major infrastructure change would need to take place as EV’s consumption from the power grid increased, or widespread use of EVs wouldn’t work.
How could we accomplish that, exactly?
By exporting excess power produced by homeowners onto the grid via net metering. The only place that power could come from is the sun itself since the power grid couldn’t support it. This is even the case when states like Texas are buying some of their power from neighboring states.
That makes solar power a pretty clear solution to the issue.
Where Will San Antonio Get the Capacity To Support the Growth of EVs?
Thanks to major weather swings and variability in temperature, Texas has plenty of unused grid capacity during off-peak hours, giving Texas unique solar potential to add more electric vehicles to its roadways. During the peak summer season, Texas uses about half of the electricity it generates to keep buildings cool. But when the weather cools, power plants across the state sit idle, leaving plenty of spare capacity to meet the electricity demands of EVs.
San Antonio’s Grid Capacity and Electric Vehicle Adoption Show Promising Trends
Many renewable energy experts are predicting that most consumers will drive electric vehicles, compared to the paltry 3-5 percent of drivers using them in the United States today. In fact, AAA reports that as many as 20 percent of Americans will make their next vehicle on an electric vehicle.
The cost of electric cars is also likely to decrease as adoption increases. In fact, some market analysts predict that electric cars will be cheaper than conventional vehicles by 2026, another potential economic upside.
Although this isn’t the first time industry pundits have discussed solar in conjunction with other clean energy practices in states outside of Texas, one might think the opportunity to use EVs in San Antonio would simply be a poor choice based on the sparse amount of dialogue on the subject.
However, if all EV owners choose to charge their vehicles during peak hours, Texas would need to add tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure to meet the demand. To reduce this, a key variable will be managing supply and demand.
In other words, the grid capacity must be timed appropriately to match up, or “pair,” with demand. Luckily, there are practices San Antonio can adopt, like time-of-use pricing, to encourage vehicle charging when electricity is more abundant and therefore cheaper and easier to supply. Additionally, the money San Antonians would save in fuel costs with an EV alone could offset the impact of these investments, at least from the demand side of the equation.
Despite solar being a financially viable option in San Antonio, there are still a lot of impending scale-backs on San Antonio solar incentives, which paint an inaccurate picture of the future of solar. We see some of these scalebacks with the CPS net metering discussions, and, additionally, the national prorating of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which will be reduced to a 26 percent maximum (as opposed to the current 30 percent) in January 2020. The 201 Trade Case tariff also spread some concern in the industry last year.
This trend can be reversed with awareness of the missed opportunity surplus grid power in cities with major weather fluctuations and consumer usage patterns present, as well as with changes in consumer demand and preferences, which are also moving in the right direction.
The future of electric vehicles in San Antonio will be seen inevitably, but unless we reverse this trend by increasing incentives for solar and storage in areas like San Antonio, which have unused grid capacity for electric vehicles, the power grid will not be prepared to take on an influx of EV drivers.
The Role Solar Backup Can Play in Expediting Adoption of EVs and Greater Energy Independence
Solar backup and battery backup are two powerful solar add-ons for homeowners that can compound the benefits of EV adoption. Backup power offers a continuous power supply to a single electrical outlet in emergencies where power can’t be used within the home. Battery backup, in contrast, allows storage of power for use at a later date.
These backup options serve two primary purposes. First is letting consumers keep more of their self-produced solar energy for future use, instead of sending it off to the grid below market rate (because of declining net metering match percentages even in the best cities for net metering). Second is that the use of solar and backup/battery backup affords homeowners more opportunity to increase the number of ways in which they use that backup power, such as charging EVs.
However, even if homeowners with solar in San Antonio didn’t use backup power to store their power and charge their EVs, it would likely be exported back onto the grid at a higher return rate for the customer, supplying the excess power to the grid that’s needed to make EV charging at night take effect in droves.
The Future of “Solar Plus” and EV Use Worldwide
Ultimately, as areas with unique grid situations like San Antonio identify opportunities to incentivize renewable energy, solar will continue to be seen not just as a wise investment, but a foundation for the use of other renewable energy alternatives, weaving the lifestyle the world needs into the fabric of Americans’ daily routines.
This is why even solar company owners are glad the solar industry is at a “dead end.” Because solar shouldn’t be a standalone solution. Rather, it should be a cornerstone of powering everything else in our lives, from the way we use energy in our homes to where the rubber hits the road. Scott Cramer is President of Go Solar Group, a San Antonio Solar Company.