Texas Grid Finally Catches Up With Wind Power Output
For years Texas was producing more wind power than it could effectively put to use. Between 2006 and 2009 over 7,000 megawatts of wind capacity was built in the state. These turbines were almost entirely located in the windy plains of West Texas. But most of the states population is located further east in the Dallas, Austin and Houston metro areas. This proved to be a problem. Wind capacity in the west was being built out faster than the grid capacity to transmit the power to where it was needed.
The result was a substantial amount of curtailments and even negative pricing for wind electricity in Texas real-time wholesale electricity spot market. Negative pricing for wind electricity is made possible by federal wind credits that pay wind energy producers to generate power even if they are getting a negative price for their electricity.
A new report by the EIA, however, shows that the number of curtailments and negative pricing events have fallen dramatically since the state has completed a massive, multi-year, multi-billion dollar project to upgrade its infrastructure and build new high capacity transmission lines to move all of this wind power across the state.
Dubbed the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) Project, the plan to ease the states transmission congestion problem took several years to complete and required an investment of over $7 billion by the states rate payers. Ultimately, the project consisted of around 180 transmission projects which enable the state to move power from the 5 CREZ zones designated by the Texas PUC to the states population centers.
Today more than 12,000MW of electricity in Texas comes from wind power. The state known for being a fossil fuel juggernaut has quietly become a leader in the U.S. in the area of renewable energy. The Texas wind energy portfolio is the largest of any state and would even be near the top if listed among the countries of the world. It is also home to the largest federal wind farm in the country.
As impressive as the states current wind capacity seems, proponents envision and even larger role for wind in the Texas electricity market. The Wind Coalition points out that:
According to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Texas land-based wind potential at an 80-meter hub height is 1,901,530 MW, the best resource in the United States and the equivalent of 18 times the states current electricity needs,
This statement was made as part of written comments submitted to The Texas Public utility Commission in which the Wind Coalition urged an even bigger role for wind energy as planners look at how the state could meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
Indeed, Texas seems to be well positioned to deal with increasingly tough emission regulations. With the completion of the CREZ project they have managed to better integrate the states wind production assets with the states electricity grid and could be seen as a model for other jurisdictions that struggle to integrate renewable power with existing infrastructures.