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Texas could be on the verge of entirely phasing out coal power

Did you know? If Texas implements only a third of the wind and solar energy projects that have been proposed to date, it could nearly phase out the use of coal in the state. That’s according to a recent study at Rice University.

What’s keeping the Lonestar State from reaching a carbon-free power sector by 2035? According to the study, the holdup is the state’s chaotic energy grid.

“Transmission lines are the leading bottleneck that is slowing down the growth of wind and solar,” one of the study’s coauthors told Fortune Magazine.

Texas is among the most energy-rich states in the US, including renewables

Texas is currently a top coal consumer among the states and a top producer of natural gas and crude oil. But beyond the fossil fuels we develop and use, the state also leads the nation in wind power, and solar power is not far behind. In fact, about 20% of Texas’s energy usage is currently from wind power.

If coal could be phased out in Texas and replaced with a renewable source of energy, it could go a long way toward meeting the nation’s clean energy goals. And, the study says, there are already enough approved renewable energy projects to do it. Proposals for new wind farms and solar arrays have doubled since June 2020.

Texas’s power grid needs to be extended to those projects

As we know from last year’s historic deep freeze, there can be major problems with Texas’s energy grid. Some people blamed the changeover to wind power for the blackouts at that time, but the Rice study determined that the actual problem was aging transmission lines and dated infrastructure.

“Simply put, it’s not always windy and not always sunny, but it’s almost always windy or sunny somewhere in Texas,” concluded the study. With appropriate infrastructure, the sun or wind that is available could be stored for later use. But to get solar and wind energy to most Texans, we would need to connect transmission lines to the land being used for renewables to the Texas grid.

Will ERCOT accept money from the federal government’s big infrastructure bill which offers over $15 billion to power line upgrades and new lines? Traditionally, Texas has not integrated its power grid with the national one. That said, ERCOT is participating in the $2 billion Southern Cross Transmission project.

Has a power company contacted you about leasing or buying your land?

Wind and solar are poised to explode onto Texas’s energy scene, and many projects are in the works. Beyond that, oil and gas exploration and development is continuing. That means energy companies will continue to need land to develop.

In Texas, energy companies can have the power of eminent domain, which means they may be able to force you to sell or lease your property for a public energy project. That does not mean you have no rights. You can challenge whether they indeed have eminent domain authority. You can seek to limit the amount of your land they use or buy. Or, you can seek just compensation for the lease or sale of your land.

If you have been contacted by an energy company, be sure to have an experienced energy law attorney look over their proposal. An energy company’s lease is generally written in the company’s interest, not yours, and there are steps you can take to protect your land and legacy.