Wind Energy In Texas Sets A New Record

You probably didn't notice it, since we here in Houston don't end up getting much of it, but electricity created by wind energy set a record in Texas over the weekend.

Well, on Friday, at any rate, at 6:37 a.m. when 6,272 megawatts -- about 19 percent of the state's total at the time -- was produced by wind turbines. And that doesn't include the Panhandle, which has plenty of turbines but is on a different grid from ERCOT, the agency that serves most of Texas.

Typically wind power produces about six percent of the state's energy.

The turbines produce a lot of energy; the problem is that it takes transmission wires to get that energy from the deserted areas where it's produced to the big cities that need it.

In fact, at times the turbines shut down because they're producing more electricity than they can send.

As the New York Times puts it:

Texas's progress in installing turbines is testing the bounds of just how much wind the electrical grid can handle. Some turbines are slowed or shut down on windy days because the state does not have sufficient transmission wires to move all the power from the remote, windy areas of West Texas to cities like Dallas and Houston that need it. Last night and this morning, for example, the prices for wind generation offered on the main Texas grid actually fell below zero, a sign of oversupply that usually prompts wind generators to shut down their turbines.
Less than zero? Sounds like a pretty good price. If only you could store the damn stuff for future use.

The state's Public Utilities Commission has approved a $5 billion plan to increase transmission lines, but it has been blocked by a district court. Cities like Garland say they can build the transmission lines much more cheaply than the private companies the PUC wants to use, and pass those savings on to consumers.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly