Oil-Loving Texas is Still the U.S. King of Wind Power

Categories: Biz

Alex Kostibas
For a state that loves its earthbound, carbon-based fuels, Texas sure seems to be betting big on mammoth turbines that harness the howling prairie winds. In fact, last year we added more wind-power capacity than any other state.

Texas remains the unequivocal king, with more than twice the installed wind capacity of California, the distant runner up. According to a Department of Energy report, "Texas has more installed wind capacity than all but five countries (including the United States) worldwide."

Apart from occupying the lower half of the windswept Southern Plains, what exactly has attracted "windcatters" to this state? Well, generous tax credits don't hurt. Congress extended through the end of this year a tax credit set to end last December. And the massive $7 billion transmission line project that will carry wind-generated power from the sparsely populated Panhandle and West Texas to the cities will help relieve the electric bottleneck when it's completed this year.

To be sure, the wind rush in Texas has settled into a lower ebb. The state still brought some 1,800 megawatts of wind capacity online last year -- more than any other -- but low natural gas prices and the corresponding electricity market prices have taken their toll on renewables, same as they have on coal and natural gas. But the vitals of this industry are improving. The DOE reports that while the generating capacity of wind turbines is steadily increasing, wind farm project costs continue to fall. A bonus: Most of the components are made in the U.S. now.

Wind passed a huge milestone last year. For the first time, it was the single biggest source of new electric generation capacity, outpacing coal and natural gas.

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27 comments
RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Wind power blows.

John1073
John1073

I just made a trip from Dallas to Pecos last month. Saw plenty of windmills in the Sweetwater area. A very large number of oil wells out there though. Oil boom doesn't begin to describe it.

Oxtail
Oxtail

Wait. A positive article about Texas being environmentally responsible. From the Observer! 

The Devil must have frostbite today.

Please get back to more articles on how Texas will destroy all life on earth and elsewhere.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

As we all know, fossil fuels will never, ever be depleted... uh, never... 

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Yes, by all means, don't build supplemental, non-polluting, minimally destructive to the environment power generation because the wind doesn't blow 24/7.

Just keep fracking away!

Sidewalk
Sidewalk

Who the hell is in charge of this state to allow all these commie pinko wind turbines in this state. What, Republicans are commies! Who knew!

ruddski
ruddski topcommenter

Great, Texas leads the nation in slapping birds from the sky,

pak152
pak152

" The state still brought some 1,800 megawatts of wind capacity online last year" standard rule of thumb is that for every megawatt of energy produced by wind there needs to be an equivalent amount in backup either via a fossil fuel or nuclear power plant or battery in case the wind mills cant produce any power. so how many backup sources have been constructed?

doublecheese
doublecheese

It's nice and all, but without new battery technology (as in some way to store the power for when we really need it) much of that capacity won't be put to good use.  That's the really great thing about conventional energy. It's already stored in the form of fossil fuels and can be used at will to meet demand.  Figure out a way to do that with wind, and we've really got something.  As it is, wind will always be supplemental at best, and cannot provide base load power.

schermbeck
schermbeck

It's just another liberal conspiracy.

d-may
d-may

@Oxtail Texas's lead in renewable energy is certainly a great positive step forward, but it hardly solves our much larger looming environmental problems. Our two biggest problems are:
1) Water resources for a exponentially growing population, a problem that will be exacerbated by drying climate change pattern. (The fact that this has been consider a "wet summer" by many people despite being historically average shows how much our climate has changed in the past decade.)

2) A legacy infrastructure that geared towards single family suburban homes, which is the costliest form of development for local municipalities to maintain. 

kduble
kduble

@mcdallas  You're missing the point. The capacity growth is mainly wind. The trend is the friend.

d-may
d-may

@mcdallas 
You need to update your source. A lot has changed in the Texas energy market since 2006. Wind is now holds 10% of the electricity production market in Texas. Last year there was a brief peak of nearly 25%. This year wind is expected to pass nuclear. By 2020 wind is expected to match coal and natural gas. 

Wind is hardly a drop in the bucket in Texas. And, surprisingly, we have that liberal ol' Governor George W. Bush to thank for that. 

d-may
d-may

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Actually, they never will be depleted. That's impossible since they are being renewed - if very slowly. What's more likely to happen is what has happened. We will use up all of the easily accessible fuel until it costs more to dig up than it does to ship in from elsewhere. Slowly the market prices will rise until the price is so high that it's cost effective to dig up the harder to get to stuff. 

Each time the price rises above renewables, there will be a rush to build out renewable power, which will cause a depression in demand of fossil fuels, which will cause the price to drop. Which will cause the cut back on production of renewables. 

This pattern will continue until the world wide supplies of fossil fuels is diminished enough that the price remains higher than the cost of renewables, perpetually. Then we will stop drilling for oil. But we will never fully deplete the world's oil supply.

...

If you want to get depressed over something, you are better off thinking about how climate change will effect worldwide water resources while the human population rises to 9 billion over the next 40 years. 

People will fight for oil, but they will kill for water. 

kduble
kduble

@ruddski Wind turbines are located away from migratory routes. Far more birds die from hitting building.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@ruddski Thanks for the reminder. It's only a few weeks until the start of dove season.

kduble
kduble

@pak152 The backup is some existing, polluting power stations. They can always be powered back up as reserve.

kduble
kduble

@doublecheese You're onto something, doublecheese. We'd have to convert our entire grid to a DC system. But in his book, "The End of Oil," Paul Roberts poses an interesting idea: Use intermittent wind to separate limitless hydrogen -- the most abundant element in the universe -- then use the hydrogen to power a pollution-free economy.

pak152
pak152

@doublecheese and don't forget that windpower can not respond to increased demand, unlike traditional powerplants that can. nor what happens when the wind stops blowing or blows to fast. Wind will always be a supplemental power source.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@doublecheese I propose a Rhode Island-sized flywheel in the middle of W Texas to store the energy..  Of course, it rotates in a complete vacuum on frictionless bearings and is spun up by 100% efficient electric motors powered by wind mills and good intentions.

mcdallas
mcdallas topcommenter

@d-may @mcdallas That's the latest study available.  Sorry it doesn't meet your standards.  Glad Texas is breaking wind.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@d-may After we deplete them will you be around in 50 million years?  Come on, you know the score.

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