In our recent blog post, we told you how climate change is impacting the Lone Star State – with drier air, more intense droughts, longer heatwaves, and heavier downpours. But Texas hasn’t just been on the receiving end of climate change – it’s also become a national leader in clean energy solutions, thanks to an abundance of wind energy.
That’s right. Many people don’t realize how much of a powerhouse Texas is when it comes to wind energy. Between its wide open spaces and the flatlands of the Great Plains, Texas is perfectly situated for steady, sustained winds that then can be used for energy production.
The truth is, wind energy has grown faster in Texas than any other US state in recent years. But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at five other wind energy wins in Texas.
1. Texas holds the record for all-time wind energy production.
On February 18, 2016, Texas surpassed its own all-time record for wind energy production —which was also the national record—providing 45 percent of the state's total electricity needs on multiple occasions throughout the evening. At one point, wind energy production provided more than 14 gigawatts of power, or enough electricity to power roughly 234 million conventional light bulbs. What's more incredible about Texas' new record is that wind power production was fairly constant throughout the day, allowing it to consistently meet around 40 percent of demand on the Texas grid.
2. The benefits of wind are estimated at $3.3 billion annually
From savings relating to health and pollution to competition against other energy sources, the financial benefits from wind energy are not insignificant. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the $3.3 billion in annual savings includes a few key elements:
- Less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen pollution ($723 million).
- Fewer carbon dioxide emissions (more than $1 billion).
- Savings against possible fuel price volatilities (almost $61 million).
- Savings against expected increases in other energy sources (estimated at over $491 million).
3. Texas was the first US state to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind power generating capacity.
Not only has wind energy grown much faster in Texas than anywhere else in the US, it was also the first state to reach 10,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity in 2011. The majority of this wind energy was generated in western Texas, and while there was demand for this power across the state, wind energy growth was so rapid that the infrastructure to transmit it across the state was unable to keep pace. So to ensure wind energy reached the more populated eastern areas of Texas, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) studied the areas with the most wind energy projects and potential and established a series of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs). PUCT then used these zones to plan a highly efficient series of more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to reliably transfer renewable energy generated in western Texas to help power eastern markets. By December 2013, the project was largely completed, reducing the need to limit the amount of wind energy entering the grid. The bottom line: clean energy is now accessible to the entire state.
4. Texas was One of the First U.S. States to Require a Certain Amount of Electricity Come from Renewable Energy Sources
When you think of Texas, you might not automatically think of an abundance of clean energy. But despite its reputation as a pro-fossil-fuel state, Texas was at the forefront of passing a renewable energy portfolio standard. In 1999, the PUCT created a rule to install 5,000 megawatts of new renewables by 2015 and set a target of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025. Remarkably, the state surpassed the 2025 target in 2009, further showing how ahead of the game Texans are with renewable energy.
5. Texas wind power is cheaper than fossil fuels.
This factoid received a lot of attention when President Obama included it in his State of the Union speech this year. An analysis by Lazard, LLC found that the cost of wind production in Texas averages between $36–51 per megawatt-hour (MWh), not including government subsidies.
Coal costs, on the other hand, range from $65–150 per MWh and gas from $52–218 per MWh. Bloomberg New Energy also reported that wind energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, citing the levelized cost of energy from wind in Iowa and Texas is lower than the levelized cost of coal at $59 per MWh – again, without subsidies.
Wind energy makes sense – and cents – which adds up to savings on consumers’ electric bills. On an average day, wind energy makes up 10 percent – or 14,000 megawatts – of Texas’ total electricity, saving consumers more than $950 million each year.
6. The Texas wind industry employs more than 24,000 workers.
Texas leads the nation in employing the most workers in the wind industry, too. This isn’t surprising given that Texas has received the most wind capital investment of any state over the past decade – $32.7 billion – nearly 25 percent of the entire nation’s capital investment in wind.
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