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Texas Solar Power Generation Overtakes California - Or Does It?

EnerWrap Special Report


Texas monthly utility-scale solar generation surpassed California for the first time in December 2023 and followed that up with another month in January. February is a dead heat currently, but with continued strong utility-scale growth, Texas utility-scale solar generation will soon surge far past California based on our estimates.

But utility-scale solar generation doesn’t give the entire picture. California currently has significantly more installed rooftop/behind-the-meter (BTM) solar capacity and generation. Rooftop solar will allow California to hold the total solar generation lead until 2026, in our opinion.

We Visualize The Math

Although utility-scale solar generation has been higher in Texas compared with California in recent months, EnerWrap does not expect total solar generation (utility-scale + BTM) in Texas to exceed California until 2026. 

Texas utility-scale monthly generation exceeded California over the last two full months of data, a significant achievement. But, we forecast the The Lone Star State will surge much higher relative to California in utility-scale solar generation starting in 2024.

Below is actual and estimated utility-scale solar generation in Texas and California. We should begin to see Texas start its accelerating surge past California during the summer of 2024 if the forecast holds.

Trailing 12-month utility-scale solar generation in Texas will surpass California in September 2024 based on our estimates, but the relative move higher in Texas from that point forward is remarkable. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

The EIA provides monthly actual and estimated utility-scale solar generation capacity through 2030 in its 860M report. These numbers will likely be revised higher.

We utilized monthly historical generation and capacity to calculate solar capacity factors in Texas and California. There is significant summer-winter seasonality in the numbers. Residential capacity factors are lower than utility-scale.

Despite growing at more than twice the rate currently, Texas won’t catch California anytime soon in the BTM solar race.

Texas BTM solar capacity was only around 3,000 MW at year-end 2023 versus 16,600 MW for California. Texas BTM solar capacity is growing at 37% currently, 20% higher than California. We modeled a 25 basis point per month reduction from each starting point from there with a 10% floor in the out years.

Using our utility-scale and BTM capacity forecasts, we estimate total solar capacity in Texas will match California in April 2026. 

Capacity factors and capacity growth were used to forecast generation. Total solar generation in Texas should pass California in 2026. From there the relative growth - based on the current utility-scale pipeline - levels off.

Our total solar capacity model has Texas annual solar generation growing 215% from 2023 through 2030, with California at 166%. The combined capacity addition is 65,000 MW.

Our forecast suggests California will add 50 GWh and Texas 90 GWh of combined utility-scale and BTM solar generation from 2023 to 2030. Combined total solar generation in 2030 is 240 GWh. On a 4 TWh U.S. power system approximation currently, Texas and California combined solar generation will go from 2.5% of the U.S. power stack to 6.0%. Six percent from just solar in only two - admittedly large - states.

Texas coal generation over the last-twelve months was 73 GWh, so Texas solar additions could in theory (but not reality) replace all coal generation in the state by 2030.

Many questions remain.

How do low natural gas prices play into this forecast?

What fuel is being displaced regionally or nationally without concurrent and similarly-paced demand growth to soak up the new solar generation?

Does a change in administration change the growth trajectory.

We believe the forecasts are reasonable. We may model out additional or all 50 states in the future.

Stay sunny.