Texas continues to lead in adding new wind turbines
Energy companies were installing a record level of wind turbines as 2013 came to a close, with most of the new capacity coming in Texas, according to new figures released Thursday.It looks like Texas has its own "all of the above" energy policy. On a recent trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley I saw hundreds of the wind turbines spinning near the Gulf Coast which has a much more dependable wind cycle than West Texas. The inland heat pulls the breeze in from the Gulf of Mexico. Corpus Christi Bay is the second windiest area in the entire US. Until they can develop storage capacity for peak energy production, wind power will continue to be inefficient and not something that can be provided on demand when the wind is not blowing.
More than 12,000 megawatts of wind power were under construction across 20 states during the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s industry market report. The trade group says that’s enough to power 3.5 million homes.
By far the biggest chunk of that was in Texas, which saw 7,000 megawatts under construction, propelled by new transmission lines linking remote Panhandle wind farms to customers in Houston, Dallas and other cities. The only other state to come remotely close was Iowa, with 1,050 megawatts under construction late last year.
“Texas is really responsible for the boom in the construction numbers, largely due to the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission lines,” said Emily Williams, a senior policy analyst for AWEA.
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Although turbines are associated with West Texas, Williams noted that the wind resources are blowing statewide. And weather patterns mean that when the turbines aren’t spinning in West Texas, they may be along the Gulf Coast.
Construction has not yet begun on some planned Texas wind energy projects, where corporate purchasers are locking in long-term deals. Both Google and Microsoft have signed long-term agreements for power from Texas wind farms.
Most of the Texas projects currently under construction will be used as merchant capacity, which isn’t sold under long-term contracts. Merchant generation is offered into the market at current rates, to be tapped during periods of excess demand, such as hot summer afternoons. Because of the demand uncertainty, merchant generation is more vulnerable to fluctuating market conditions and prices.