A new transmission line, proposed by Pattern Energy, could help Texas share its vast energy resources with states in the East. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has already approved plans for the new transmission line, which would build high-voltage transmission lines between Texas and Mississippi.
To date, Texas hasn't been able to share its wind energy resources. The state essentially has its own electric grid — the Texas Interconnected System — with very few connections to the nation's other two power grids. The limited infrastructure makes it difficult to share power with its neighboring states and vice versa.
Once completed in 2019, the new electricity infrastructure will be able to transport up to 3,000 megawatts of energy out of Texas. It will begin in North Texas, where high wind speeds have spurred the growth of several large wind farms, and run through Louisiana before ending 400 miles later in Mississippi.
Although it may seem like Texas is losing out here, the opposite is true. The new transmission line should help strengthen Texas' power grid and provide huge economic value to the Lone Star State.
Strengthening the grid
Because Texas has few interconnections with the rest of the nation, it's difficult to get power to the state when the electricity grid is constrained. In hot summer months, when consumers are blasting their air conditioners, the grid is often stretched to capacity. This puts the state at risk of blackouts. The new transmission line will be capable of transporting power to Texas, not just taking it out. This should alleviate much of the strain faced by the grid today.
Adding economic value
Texas already has a booming wind energy industry. It has more than twice the installed wind energy capacity of any other state, coming in at just more than 12,300 megawatts. Ample wind resources and federal subsidies have made the state an attractive place for clean energy investors. Year after year more wind turbines have spun up in Texas. In 2013, renewable energy grew 12 percent in the state, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The coming years could be even bigger. At the end of 2013 Texas completed its first high voltage transmission lines for renewable energy. The $7 billion infrastructure is capable of spreading 18,500 megawatts of wind energy across 3,600 miles of the state.
ERCOT has already signed interconnection agreements with several companies looking to get their wind energy on the grid, including Pattern Energy. These agreements will add more than 9,000 megawatts of wind energy to the grid, about 7,000 megawatts of which will come online as soon as 2016.
All of the renewable power on this transmission line is sold to utilities or electricity providers on the competitive market. But Pattern Energy's project will provide an opportunity for Texas companies to sell renewable electricity outside of the state. The added profit opportunity will likely attract more investors, spurring the growth of even more wind farms and solar arrays in the Lone Star State.
The transmission line will also cost an estimated $2 billion to build. Pattern Energy is responsible for funding the project itself, so Texas rate payers won't be held responsible for the expense. Instead, it will only add economic value in terms of job growth and revenue.