Preserving the Environment

Texas Breaks a Record, But Not the Kind You’d Expect

April 10, 2014
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Texas Breaks a Record, But Not the Kind You’d Expect
David McNew/Getty Images
The home of Friday Night Lights is actually the biggest wind power producer in the country.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, which partly explains how a state known for its oil rigs, giant steaks, and five-lane highways has just broken a national wind energy record.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 26, wind power fed 10,296 megawatts of power into the state’s electricity grid — almost 29 percent of all wind power used in the state at that time. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, that’s a record for all power systems in the United States.

Texas is actually the largest producer of wind power in the United States, with the potential to collect more power than Italy, France, or the U.K., according to Next City. It’s no surprise, then, that the morning after the wind energy record, Texas broke a “wind power share record,” when 38.43 percent of the state’s power came from windmills. (To be fair, that happened at 3:19 a.m., so perhaps the state wasn’t buzzing with electrical needs.)

Most of the electricity comes from West Texas, which is home of Roscoe Wind Farm and Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, as well as the television drama Friday Night Lights. (Why was wind energy never a plot on the show?)

There’s a divide in the Lone Star State in terms of energy needs and energy generation, though: West Texas has the wind, but it doesn’t actually have a large enough population to use the power it generates. At the same time, places like Houston and Corpus Christi generate far less electricity than they need.

To solve the problem, Texas passed the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones Initiative. Now transmission lines zigzag across the state, successfully carrying wind power from north to south and west to east that was previously lost on its way to the electrical grid.

Other states and their power generators are trying to be more like Texas. The Southwest Power Pool, which serves Oklahoma, Kansas, and parts of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas, is attempting to build a network of transmission lines that will hook into the one in Texas, funneling wind energy across state lines.

Currently Texas has 12 gigawatts of installed capacity in the state, and 8 more gigawatts are planned or under construction.

The lesson here is clear: Don’t mess with Texas, especially when it comes to transforming wind energy into electrical power.

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