The plains of West Texas have long been known for the wind farms sprouting up there, but last week those facilities collectively hit a new milestone. According to a report from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), wind-generated electricity made up nearly one third of all electricity on the Texas grid on March 26, 2014.
What's more, just a few days later on March 31, wind-generated electricity met 39.7 percent of the ERCOT area's total power demand, as published by the America Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
This new threshold of success for Texas wind electricity production underscores the viability of more than 8,000 additional megawatts of capacity currently under construction across the state, and the billions of dollars already spent on wind farms in Texas.
This additional capacity will bring Texas' wind generation total to more than 19,000 MW. Once the facilities under construction come online, Texas will have enough wind-generated electricity to power roughly 3.8 million homes during the peak consumption periods of the summer and 9.5 million homes during periods of lower usage. In other terms, wind power will be able to accommodate 37 percent of all housing units in Texas during high usage and nearly 94 percent of all units during low usage.
How the success of wind energy in Texas raises the bar
Texas' reputation as an energy powerhouse in the U.S. goes back decades. From the oil boom of the early 20th century to the refineries dotting the Gulf Coast and the development of wind farms in the past few decades, the energy industry has been the driving force behind the Texas economy for the better part of the last 150 years.
Today, the combination of pressure to find alternative electricity generation options and the spoils of years of research and development dollars are coming together to support the most aggressive investment in wind energy ever – with 26,700 MW of wind generation projects currently being considered by ERCOT.
When stacked up against wind generation across the United States, Texas continues to come in at number one, further demonstrating the commitment the state has made to diversify its energy generation.
How wind generation is helping Texans
You can't talk about wind generation without talking about jobs. Everything from the construction of turbines to the day-to-day maintenance and management of wind farms creates jobs. Texas has the largest number of wind energy jobs in the country, with the industry supporting between 8,000 and 9,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2013 according to AWEA.
Aside from the economic implications as a result of increased wind energy generation across Texas in the form of jobs and capital investment, the rise of wind energy technology is supporting the academic community.
As reported here on SaveOnEnergy.com in August 2013, Texas A&M has already taken steps to embrace alternative energy generation on campus, but this week the university has also been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the state to ramp up its wind energy research program. According to the San Antonio Business Journal, the ensuing research project featuring team members from several Texas universities will also be supplemented by $50 million from the federal government in addition to other private donations.
In sum, the success of wind energy generation in Texas to this point has solidified the technology's viability in the eyes of the state and federal governments, as well as the larger business community.