Earlier this month, Texas set a new record for the percentage of electricity generated by wind power, a staggering 26 percent of total supply across the state’s main grid system.
Wind turbines generated 8,521 megawatts (MW) of electricity just after 10:00 a.m. on November 10. More than 7,000 MW came from wind farms in West Texas, with around 1,100 MW coming from installations along the Gulf of Mexico coast.
This mark beat the previous record by more than 150 MW, was enough to power 4.3 million average Texas homes, and represented 85% of the state’s optimal wind generation output, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Wind has represented around 9% of ERCOT’s supply for much of 2011, but that share is growing.
“We have surpassed previous wind power records several times this year,” said Kent Saathoff, ERCOT vice president of Grid Operations and System Planning. “While added capacity is one reason for this growth, experience and improved tools are enabling ERCOT to integrate this resource into the grid more effectively than ever before.”
Could Texas Reach 75% Wind?
ERCOT manages the grid for 85% of the state’s total electric load, matching supply and demand for 23 million customers across 40,500 miles of transmission lines. Texas already has the most installed wind capacity of any state in America with a total of 10,929 MW and 10,000 MW within the ERCOT system.
But more installed wind capacity than many countries isn’t enough for the state where bigger is better. Texas could conceivably triple the amount of installed wind capacity in the state.
Roughly 21,000MW of new wind turbines are under review by ERCOT, and the state is nearing the completion of several massive transmission projects designed to move wind power from West Texas to eastern metropolitan areas where demand is highest.
Winds of Economic Change
Considering the potential of West Texas wind turbines, it’s not hard to see an ideal situation where 30,000 MW of installed wind capacity could meet 75% of the state’s total demand – especially with 2,400 miles of new transmission lines improving the grid operator’s ability to move wind across the state.
The Texas renewable energy industry report, released this summer, estimates the wind industry will help add 6,000 renewable jobs per year through 2020 and contributes to 1,300 companies and 100,000 jobs, in total. Imagine adding 200% more to those numbers.
But, of course – Texas’ wind energy potential ultimately depends a great deal upon renewal of the federal Production Tax Credit. Combined with wind power records being set across the country, ERCOT’s newest announcement is proof once again that wind power make economic sense regardless of party affiliation.
Image Credit: Texas wind turbines via Shutterstock
Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy public relations company based in Washington, D.C.