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Texas Wind Energy: Separating the Facts from the Hype

November 15, 2010
by admin

One of the most exciting forms of renewable energy that shows the most promise is wind energy. Derived from wind turbines, wind energy generates electricity without the need for fossil fuels and the consumption of water, and produces no emissions during the process. This significant environmental benefit makes wind energy one of the most promising and fastest developing forms of renewable energy today. At the forefront of wind energy development is the state of Texas, known for its oil and natural gas production facilities, but now leads the nation in the production of wind energy. The state can generate Texas electricity using wind energy with a capacity that is three times as much as Iowa, the second highest wind energy-producing state, and would rank sixth after the United States, China, Germany, Spain and India if Texas was considered a separate nation. The Renewable Portfolio Standard signed into law in 1999 by then governor George W. Bush set Texas on the road towards renewable energy and a leader in wind energy, producing over 8,200 megawatts of wind-generated Texas electricity. According to ERCOT or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, wind energy accounted for 6.2 percent of the state’s 2009 Texas electricity production. The Facts and the Hype Texas commitment to renewable sources of energy have generated hype from all levels: claims of the state exceeding all expectations regarding wind energy generation, generation of over 15,000 more jobs, and over $6 billion in investments – the biggest “economic boon to the state” according to President Barack Obama himself. However, actual figures from ERCOT, the state’s grid operator, indicated that only 708 megawatts of this total wind energy capacity is reliable, particularly during the summer where Texas electricity demands are at their peak. To compensate, conventional energy generation is still utilized to sustain the more than 72,648 megawatt demands during the summer months. ERCOT projects that wind energy will eventually have significant impact on the grid by the year 2014, after transmission constraints have all been addressed. Status and Direction of Wind Energy in Texas Recent figures have indicated a very promising outlook for the wind energy industry as 12.1 percent of the state’s total Texas electricity production by April of this year. Texas continues to have the largest wind farms and highest wind capacity nationwide, despite the problems and issues the industry faced. Plans of building the largest wind farm in the world was discontinued due to constraints imposed by the lack of transmission lines that will bring Texas electricity from the various wind farms across the state and into the major cities that require this energy. To address this, the state is allocating over $5 billion in investments to lay out a concrete transmission plan. Most of Texas wind power farms are located in West Texas and the Panhandle. Now, there are not enough transmission lines that will bring the generated Texas electricity from these locations and down to the big metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth where consumption is the highest. Once these hurdles are addressed and an efficient means of transmission are in place, the state and surrounding areas will definitely benefit from this viable source of renewable energy.

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