Texas leads U.S. in wind power

Texas summons up images of oil derricks, storage tanks and gas pipelines, not usually wind turbines.

But while Texas leads the United States in the harvest of oil and gas, it is also by far the nation’s largest producer of wind energy.

A new report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), operator of the state’s self-contained power grid that supplies about 85 percent of the state’s electric power, indicates the use of renewable energy, particularly wind power, is growing rapidly.

“If Texas were a country, it would rank sixth in the world for wind power capacity,” Robbie Searcy, ERCOT’s communications manager, told Xinhua. “The amount of wind power capacity now serving the ERCOT region – more than 11,000 megawatts — represents about 3.7 percent of the total wind power capacity in the world.”

Edging out Texas in the use of wind power are the number-one provider, China, then the United States, Germany, Spain and India, Searcy said.

One reason Texas is so high on the world’s list of alternative energy providers is that it has a state program that offers incentives, such as megawatt hours of renewable energy credits, to wind farms and other harvesters of alternative, non-fossil-fuel-based energy.

In its report, ERCOT noted that power generators participating in the state’s renewable energy credits produced 38.1 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy in 2013, up 12 percent year on year.

Michael Goggin, director of research for the American Wind Energy Association, said the harnessing of wind power in Texas began in earnest in the early 2000s, growing in 2005 and then producing more than 2,000 megawatts in 2010.

“We now have over 12,000 megawatts, or production in 2013 of 36 million megawatt hours. One megawatt hour is enough to power a house for about a month,” Goggin said.

Most of the wind powered turbine farms are under long-term purchase agreements with the purchaser, or large state-owned utility companies.

Renewable energies have already contributed significantly to the people of Texas, according to Goggin, and plans are in place for greater contributions from the industry in the future.

“In 2012, there were 10 thousand jobs in the state, 45 manufacturing facilities including over 40 wind projects,” Goggin said.

What other countries could learn from Texas’s alternative energy experience, Goggin noted, is how to set out an electricity market that allows various energy sources to compete.

“Texas has done a good job of setting out a very fair electricity market,” he said. “Its renewable portfolio standard helps to provide the long-term stability to start with in the state.”