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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Texas is a wind power giant

It seems odd that the greatest oil state should be such a US wind power giant.  Yet, because the wind blows steadily and strongly across the state, the potential is there, and is being realised.

(Source)



  1. Texas was the first state to reach 10,000 MW of wind capacity.  Last year total capacity reached nearly 18,000 MW.
  2. Texas has received the most investment in wind of any US state--US$32.7 billion, and employs the most workers in wind too (24,000)
  3. Wind now supplies 10% of total electricity generated (compared with 35% from all green sources in Germany).  On some occasions wind supplies 40%.
  4. Wind is now the cheapest source of energy in Texas:  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.
((Read more here.)

What this implies is that the percentage of wind in the total power mix in Texas is going to keep on rising.  Wind power is no longer being installed just because we want to reduce carbon emissions.  Now it's also cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives.  This makes the pressure to switch compelling. 

How will  the Texas grid deal with the fact that even in Texas, the wind doesn't blow all the time?  

Well, for a start, utilities are already using gas-fired peaking power plants, and that's likely to continue until storage is cheap enough to price them out of the market.

The cost of battery storage is in fact plummeting.  But at this stage it's still too expensive to provide days of storage for the whole grid.  It will be cheap enough to provide enough storage (3 to 4 hours' worth) for the evening ramp up. 

Texas also has strong solar resources.  The Tesla Solar City merger is about  Tesla doing for solar panels what it's doing for EVs.  One of the reasons rooftop solar costs so much more in the US than it does here in Oz is the cost of gaining a client.  Tesla intends to slash that cost.   I expect that the uptake of rooftop solar is going to pick up sharply.   And given that it's Tesla, it will be combined with behind-the-meter storage.


The Texas grid system will need more links with the Eastern Interconnection, the grid which covers all the states east of the Rockies.  The truth is that the wind is always blowing somewhere, and wind farms which are far enough apart can produce baseload power.  When the wind's blowing hard in Texas, it'll sell its surplus power to the east, and vice versa.  Germany copes with its 35% renewable component because of its extensive links to the European grid.  It exports power to France when it has a surplus, and imports from Norway's dams when it is short.

There are states in the US which oppose a switch to renewables.  The slide in the costs of wind, solar and CSP makes this an increasingly quixotic venture.  And anyway, if California (the world's sixth largest economy), Texas (the world's 11th), New York State (the world's 12th) , and the wind-belt states switch, the nation-wide switch to renewables will accelerate.


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