Texas has always reigned supreme in the energy world. With countless oil rigs and a flourishing fracking industry, it should come as no surprise that the state quickly jumped on the opportunity to dominate the wind energy industry too.
It all started in 1999, when lawmakers passed the Renewable Portfolio Standard, mandating that 10,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable power be added to the grid by 2025. To spur growth, the state offered tax credits and rebates to companies that invested in the development and construction of renewable energy.
Companies rushed to buy parcels of land and erect massive wind turbines to quickly add green energy to the grid. The rush was so big, in fact, that the state surpassed its 2025 goal in just six years. By the end of 2013, the state had more than 12,000 MW of wind energy capacity — enough to power 6 million homes during routine usage.
To date, Texas has more than double the wind energy than any other state and even has more wind capacity than all but five countries. Although it's already surpassed its goal, the Texas wind energy industry is still growing.
All told, the state has about 1.9 million MW of wind potential, not including the wind turbines pending off its coasts, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Should Texas' renewable market continue to grow and reach its full wind energy potential, the state could generate 18 times the electricity needs of its residents.
The reason wind has been so successful in Texas is twofold. One, the state is an ideal landscape for wind energy. With areas of flat, windy plains and plenty of coast lines, a large portion of Texas is set up for success at churning out wind power. West Texas is currently leading the state in wind generation. According to the Texas State Energy Conservation Office, the area already has more than 2,000 turbines. But the coast, which offers consistent breezes, is quickly gaining ground as more turbines come under construction both on and off shore.
And two, the low cost of wind power, along with state and federal tax incentives, made wind energy the economical option. Although the expense of solar energy has decreased significantly in the last couple of years, at the time, wind energy was the cheapest option. Instead of installing expensive solar arrays, companies could invest in wind turbines, which produced more renewable power at a lower cost.
New transmission lines open in Texas
Not only does Texas have the most wind energy, it has taken steps to ensure that its renewable energy is used as much as possible. Many states have issues with curtailment, reducing wind energy generation because it can't be integrated to the power grid. But Texas has taken great strides to hedge against it.
In 2008 the state began building new transmission lines necessary for transporting wind energy to consumers. The $7 billion project was completed at the end of 2013, opening up more than 3,600 miles of new transmission lines, increasing the states wind capacity to almost 18,500 MW. Because of the steps Texas has taken, the state reduced curtailment from 17 percent in 2009 to just 1.2 percent in 2013.
The new transmission lines have also helped the state attract more wind resources. By 2013 the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) signed interconnection agreements for 9,000 MW of new wind power. Of that, 7,000 MW is expected to come online by 2016.