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Blowing in the Wind: Texas Wind Energy Updates

June 6, 2011

Wind energy is a form of renewable energy that use wind turbines to produce electricity. This form of energy production consumes zero fossil fuels, zero water, and produces zero emissions. At the forefront of wind energy production and development in the United States is the state of Texas, producing more than 10,000 megawatts of Texas electricity which is roughly three times as much wind energy produced by the second biggest wind energy state,Iowa.

Since the signing of the critical law that governed the Texas renewable portfolio standard by then governor George W. Bush, a rapid growth in wind energy development is occurring in the state, with capacity increasing in the coming years as more and more Texas electricity generating wind farms are being set-up across the state.

Despite this growth, the Texas wind energy industry is facing several challenges as well as oppositions from certain sectors, causing further hindrances to future developments. Still, the state and players involved continue to push through with rapid development, in the overall quest of increasing renewable energy capacity and provide readily available and cheap electricity for all the people ofTexas.

Getting Wind Energy from the Gulf Coast

The majority of wind energy projects in the state occur in West Texas, where enormous wind turbines are erected in various wind farms to harness the power of the fierce winds that blow southward from the great plains of Texas. In 2010, wind energy accounted for 12.1 percent of the overall Texas electricity production. But a new geography in wind power generation is being set up in the state, this time with wind turbines lining the southern Gulf Coast.

One prominent wind farm is the 400,000-acre Kenedy Ranch, with multitude of Texas electricity generating wind turbines towering as high as a football field’s length, high above the sand dunes, long grasses, trees and wildlife along the Coast. The wind farm started operating in 2009 but has doubled its wind energy production last year.

In 2008, billionaire T. Boone Pickens announced plans of building the world’s biggest wind farm along the Texas Panhandle. However, this project was shelved and eventually cancelled due to constraints and lack of transmission lines that will carry the generated Texas electricity from the wind farms and into the cities.

Addressing the Transmission Issue 

The various wind farms erected in West Texas are faced with the lack of transmission lines that will bring the generated Texas electricity to the population centers located in the East andCentral Texas. There is currently only one major line that connects the west to these cities creating a severe bottleneck in transmission.

The state however, is addressing this issue with a $5 billion transmission plan that will build a network of transmission line routes from the wind farms in the West and coastal areas to the cities and other populated areas. Eight new routes have already been approved by the state’s Public Utility Commission as part of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone or CREZ , a network that will span more than 2,300 miles.

Aside from the state’s transmission project, other efforts are underway that will help address the issue of transmission bottleneck and fully utilize the Texas electricity generated in these wind farms. One such project is the world’s largest wind energy storage system being built by utility giant Duke Energy for use with the Notrees wind farm inWest Texas.

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