We’re all going to be paying for it, so you might be glad to know that a new set of transmission lines to bring wind power from the Panhandle and West Texas to folks in North and Central Texas appear to be off to a good start. According to a new federal analysis this week, the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones power transmission project, also known as CREZ, is already resulting in fewer curtailments of wind power and more even prices in Texas’ energy market.
The project cost $7 billion, a price that will be paid for by tacking on a fee to Texans’ utility bills. On average, your power bill could go up several dollars a month.
Before the lines went into operation, Texas had an odd problem: the state was producing too much wind power. Wind power grew so rapidly in Texas that it was a victim of its own success. More than half of the state’s wind power was built in a very short period, from 2006-09, according to the analysis from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and transmission couldn’t keep up.
“The Texas grid experienced major transmission congestion as the large volumes of electricity from these wind plants, which were concentrated in the rural western and northern areas of the state, were sometimes unable to reach the population centers in the eastern half of the state,” the EIA writes. There weren’t enough transmission lines to get the wind power to where it was needed, and at times the state’s grid had to curtail the wind power so they wouldn’t overload the transmission system.
Over three thousand miles of transmission lines were built to bring wind power from where it was being produced to where it was needed. The project, largely completed by December 2013, has resulted in fewer curtailments of wind power. It’s also meant fewer instances of negative wind prices, where generators are essentially paying providers to take their power. That phenomenon has caused distortions in parts of the Texas energy market. Now, with the new lines, the EIA says the playing field has grown more even:
In March, Texas set new records for wind power generation. On the evening of March 26, nearly a third of the power being generated for the Texas grid came from wind. And with more turbines coming and the new transmission lines in place, the EIA says that record is likely to be broken again in the near future.
But as wind has taken off (and solar appears poised to do the same), new battles are emerging over how much to incentivize renewable power generation in the state. The head Texas energy regulator is even calling for the state to look into additional fees for wind generators.
You can read more over at the Energy Information Administration.