In 1901, a field to the south of Beaumont, Texas erupted with the largest oil gusher known at the time. It took nine days to cap the outburst, but once it was under control, Beaumont shot to the front page of every newspaper across the state. As Texas’ first boomtown, Beaumont became a hot destination for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to gain a foothold in the oil industry. Ever since, Texas has been well-known for its oil production, with companies such as Exxon-Mobil and Marathon taking up residence in the region. Even the gone-but-not-forgotten NFL team the Houston Oilers took a cue from the state’s most popular industry.
These days, a similar story is unfolding in the Lone Star State: the development of wind power. Much like oil, wind is harnessed to power homes and businesses all across Texas, but there’s a key difference: Wind power doesn’t come with the burden of all the toxic emissions you hear about with fossil fuels. Wind farms have the capability to take kinetic energy and convert it into mechanical energy with hardly any pollution at all.
Another cool thing about wind energy in Texas is that there’s no centralized location for collection and production. Wind farms – from massive, public operations to small, private fields – stretch across most areas of the state. A lot of the strongest gusts and greatest energy potential exist around the Panhandle, but that’s far from the only region Texas has capitalized on. It’s this holistic mentality that allows Texas to excel as a leader in the industry.
Texas nearly doubles the next closest state in terms of wind power production. If every one of its wind farms were to operate at full capacity, Texas would be able to generate more than 10,000 megawatts. Iowa, which dons the silver medal, would only be able to produce around 4,300 megawatts. The largest wind farm in Texas is the Roscoe Wind Farm, located in west central Texas. It has 627 wind turbines and the capability to power more than 250,000 average homes in Texas.
With the way our society is moving, it seems only logical that Texas will be an integral part in transitioning our large-scale energy production to a more sustainable model. In addition to all the wind power opportunities that Texas provides, it’s also a prime candidate to house the expansion of solar energy. In any case, Texans should be proud of the way their state is headlining the boom of renewable energy.
One of the benefits of being able to choose your Texas Retail Electric Provider is that you can choose to support renewable energy to whatever extent you want. Retail Electric Providers don’t generate electricity on their own, but it’s easy to find information on how much electricity the provider buys from renewable energy sources (see our post on Electricity Facts Labels for more information).
The history of the CREZ project
In 2008, the Public Utility Commission passed legislation that placed an even greater emphasis on making renewable energy accessible across Texas. Known as “order 33672,” this bill assigned an impressive $4.93 billion to creating more transmission lines from competitive renewal energy zones, or CREZs. CREZs are areas designated by the PUC for the construction of renewable energy facilities.
These projects are to be constructed by seven of the state’s transmission and distribution utilities, and will make it even easier for customers across the state to choose renewable energy options. When the transmission lines are completed, 18,456 megawatts of wind power will be accessible by some of Texas’s most populated metropolitan areas.
Wind power facilities are natural choices for the first designated CREZs, given Texas’s significant amount of wind farms. According to an August 5, 2011 article by the Odessa American, “The wind industry has spurred the revitalization of many small communities, bringing in much-needed jobs and tax revenue when some small towns were all but drying up and blowing away.” However, many of these sources are currently located in remote areas like West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. The CREZ transmission project will make wind-generated electricity available in areas like Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio. As more clean energy is made available to customers across Texas, there are also expected to be benefits to the state’s air quality.
The status of the CREZ project
The build-out of these new transmission lines began in 2011, after ERCOT completed its CREZ Reactive Power Study (which recommended new improvements for controlling and routing renewable energy). The lines are expected to be completed by the end of 2013. However, the state is already seeing benefits from its wind-powered energy sources. During increased electrical demand in the first week of August, wind energy sources were able to provide additional megawatts of power to deal with the emergency (according to the Odessa American).
The best place to find up-to-date information on the CREZ project is at the PUC’s official project page, www.TexasCREZProjects.com. Here readers can find information on the five different Zones, along with information about the state’s different Transmission Service Providers and their projects.
There are many green energy options to explore in Texas, but one of the most popular is energy from wind generation. In fact, many important events associated with wind energy have occurred right here in the Lone Star State, and today Texas produces more wind power than any other state with an installed capacity of 10,085 MW. Iowa comes in second with 3,675 MW.
Texas’s impressive wind power capacity comes from the many wind farms installed across the state, including the Roscoe Wind Farm, which is the largest in the world. Wind farms are groupings of turbines which are connected over a power collection and communication network. These wind farms do more than just help to provide energy to many different customers—they also provide jobs and support the economy in more remote parts of Texas.
West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University) first began its wind energy research in the 1970s. As a result of this research, the Alternative Energy Institute was founded in 1977. The initial goals were to test and improve current wind turbine designs, while also informing the public about the applications of both wind and solar technology.
More than three decades later, AEI is still helping promote wind energy around the state, and around the world. Students at WTAMU can even take online courses taught by AEI staff.
The geography of Texas itself is one of the reasons that wind energy is becoming more popular in the state. Many areas of Texas experience strong winds, with a Wind Power Class of 5 or higher. These sites are eligible for the construction of wind farms, although other circumstances also come into play.
Three major areas in the state with high wind power potential are the Great Plains, the Gulf Coast, and select ridge tops and passes in the Trans-Pecos area. According to the Texas State Energy Conservation Office at InfinitePower.org, the number of potential sites for Texas wind power “will only expand as development costs continue to drop and wind turbine technology improves.”
What does this mean for Texas energy customers? Primarily, it means that you’ll have even more options when it comes to how and where you get your energy, and will hopefully be able to enjoy green energy at lower prices as the technology advances. Be sure to keep checking this site for more information on the Texas energy news that matters to you.