Another record was set for wind power generation this week, according to the group that manages much of the state’s power. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says Wednesday evening, wind power generation on the grid reached10,296 megawatts (MW), or enough to power 5 million Texas homes during times of regular demand. That beat the previous record of actual generation by 600 megawatts, roughly the equivalent of a medium-sized fossil fuel power plant.
A few hours later, early Thursday morning, almost a third of the power on the grid also came from wind power, primarily from turbines in the Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast. It’s the third time this month that wind generation broke previous records.
ERCOT credits both a breezy week and the recent addition of a transmission line project known as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) that was designed to bring wind power from West Texas and the Panhandle to consumers in Central and North Texas.
“The addition of these new transmission facilities is making it more possible to bring that wind power in, especially from the West Texas region, where the bulk of this wind generation is coming from,” ERCOT spokesperson Robbie Searcy says. The transmission project was completed earlier this year, adding thousands of miles of transmission to bring wind power from where it’s generated to where it’s needed by consumers.
Texas leads the nation in wind power, with more generation capacity than even many countries can boast. ERCOT says that nearly double the amount of current wind power capacity installed is “in development,” and more than double the amount of current wind generation is “under study.” Overall, wind power provided ten percent of the grid’s power last year, up almost a percent from the year before.
While wind power has been a big area of growth in the Lone Star State, the expiration of a tax credit for new wind projects likely means that growth has crested. With the deployment of those CREZ transmission lines, however, we could be seeing just the beginning of a similar period of growth for solar power.
“We are starting to see increasing growth in solar,” Searcy of ERCOT says. Austin approved a project for a relatively cheap, large-scale solar project in West Texas this week.
Forrest Wilder writes in the Texas Observer this week that solar power in Texas has a very long road ahead:
“Still, some in the renewable energy business think solar still has a ways to go to close the gap. In the utility world, the concept is “grid parity”—the almost-talismanic threshold at which a budding energy source can produce power equal to or cheaper than what’s coming off the grid.
Or, in layman’s terms, it’s when solar (or wind or geothermal, etc) officially kick coal, nuclear and natural gas’ ass.”
Then again, those new transmission lines could also be used for natural gas projects, since they have already passed the required mark for renewable energy projects.