The One and Only Texas Wind Boom


An interesting story from MIT on the difficulties in transitioning to wind power.

It has also shown that a big state can get a substantial amount of its power from renewable sources without significant disruptions, given the right policies and the right infrastructure investments. The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 report “Wind Vision” set a goal of getting 35 percent of all electricity in the country from wind in 2050, up from 4.5 percent today. In Texas, at times, that number has already been exceeded: on several windy days last winter, wind power briefly supplied more than 40 percent of the state’s electricity. For wind power advocates, Texas is a model for the rest of the country.

But it also reveals what wind power can’t achieve. Overall, wind still represents less than 20 percent of the state’s generation capacity—a number that dips into the low single digits on calm, hot summer days. And even with the wind power boom, the state’s total estimated carbon emissions were the highest in the nation in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available—up 5 percent from the previous year.


The key to wind power is having transmission lines which can carry the electricity from the windy plains to the cities which use the power. Texas was able to pull this off, at least in-state, because it has its own power grid. Hence, the state government could require that ordinary citizens pay for building the transmission infrastructure. Elsewhere, the electrical grid consists of multiple states, making decisions regarding new transmission lines much harder.

The northern plains have wind but not big cities. The east coast has big cities but not the same level of consistent wind as out of the plains. Texas is blessed with relatively consistent wind power, many big cities and a centralized government which mandated construction of transmission lines.






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