You may have a general understanding of the energy grid, though if you do not work in the industry it would be tough to understand the intricacies of the equipment and those in charge of regulating said equipment. At a basic level, energy is generated by a power plant, then transferred to a substation via power lines (for aggregation and distribution), then distributed to local power substations and energy regulators, until finally traveling through local power lines to your home. For a helpful graphic on how this works, check out the following link: https://www.choosetexaspower.org/energy-resources/how-the-power-grid-works/. The more power is generated, the more likely we are to be able to address high demand – like during the summer when temperatures increase to triple digits, or alternatively when – like we saw last week – they dip down to the single digits, and we all turn on our heaters at home. If there is too much energy demand on the grid, and demand surpasses supply, the entire grid could shut down or “fail,” causing systems to crash, which would require weeks or possibly months worth of infrastructure work to bring the power back online. Because of this delicate balance, there are several governance bodies in charge of regulating the grid – and making sure that we can meet demand for the entire state equitably. This is why when you decide to “go solar,” the company you work with will need to communicate your power production with the local utility via an “interconnection agreement” which allows them to plan ahead for your power generation to be connected to the grid.
Energy production in Texas comes from a variety of sources, including: Natural Gas, Coal, Oil/Petroleum, Nuclear energy, Hydro-electric power (dams), and Renewables such as Wind and Solar energy. The breakdown of how much of each material is used to power the state of Texas is as follows (chart found on U.S. Energy Information Administration, here: https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX):
The more energy is produced, the more is available for consumption, which is why solar plays such a pivotal role in the summer time when Texans use their air-conditioners to moderate the hot temperatures inside their homes – the more solar energy we harness in the summer time, the more equipped we are to deal with energy demand. As you can see, this type of energy currently makes up the smallest portion of our energy production equation – ergo, there’s nothing but potential for additional energy to enter the market if we all “go solar” – the real issue here is information, and the money to implement it. This is why things like the Federal Tax Credit or local utility incentives for solar energy are so important because they help consumers like you and me afford the ticket price of a new solar energy system, while allowing us to pay no more than our current electric bill.
What about in the winter time, when the days are shorter and there is less sunlight to turn into power? Well, you’re not wrong to be skeptical – solar panels do typically produce less energy in the winter than in the summer – however they are not obsolete. More energy production allows for more energy consumption, so even if your solar panels produce less in the winter, if we all had solar energy on our roofs, can you imagine how much more energy we might have had last week to power the grid when the natural gas and coal plants froze? What’s stopping you from helping power the grid?