Coastal wind energy to be added to Texas mix

Houston Chronicle:
Nearly a decade ago, Duke Energy placed several weather towers along the Gulf Coast to measure winds coming off the Gulf of Mexico. Duke's engineers were soon struck by one particular characteristic of the sea breezes: They blow like clockwork.

This realization helped spur the development of a rapidly growing energy source that is beginning to challenge, or at least cut into, the dominance of West Texas wind farms, which account for more than 70 percent of the state's wind energy. While the generating capacity along the coast is still a fraction of that in West Texas, and wind speeds are far lower, Gulf wind is becoming more important to the state's energy mix because it blows more reliably and when the power grid needs it most, during high demand periods in the morning and afternoon.

The well-timed supplies can help ease price spikes in wholesale markets on hot summer days and lower customer bills.

"The nice part about the Gulf Coast wind generation is that it tends to be very consistent and it happens at peak," said Chris Coleman, the senior meteorologist for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees 90 percent of the state's power grid. "West Texas tends to be very erratic."

Since Duke, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., developed its first wind farm in 2012, wind generation capacity along the Gulf Coast has increased sixfold, from 500 megawatts to 3,000, about 15 percent of the state's total wind generating capacity of nearly 20,000 megawatts. (One megawatt can power 200 average homes on a hot Texas day.) Today, nine wind farms stretch from north of Corpus Christi to Brownsville, and at least four more projects are planned.

The developments are benefiting the Gulf economy, particularly in rural stretches where jobs and industry are scarce. Duke alone has invested more than $1 billion to build five South Texas wind farms dubbed Los Vientos.
As someone who used to race sailboats along the Gulf Coast, this is no surprise.  Corpus Christi Bay is the second windiest in the nation surpassed only by San Francisco Bay.  They both have the same drivers.   The inland hot spots pull the moist air from the Gulf in as the land heads up during the day.  They usually bring clouds with them that sometimes release rain on the hottest areas.  As the area cools down at night the clouds roll back over the warm Gulf and then repeat the cycle the next day unless acted upon by storm fronts.

The breeze usually starts coming in in the early afternoon and usually last until sunset..


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