Texas to Double Wind Capacity, Deliver to Major Cities

Thanks to a $6.8 billion investment in new transmission lines, Texas will be able to deliver double the wind capacity to its cities.

And that’s leading to another boom in wind energy there – developers are expected to spend $3.3 billion to build 1,644 megawatts (MW) of new wind farms in Texas over the next two years.

Texas leads the nation in installed wind capacity and grew 18% last year, adding over 1800 MW for a total of 12.2 gigawatts across more than 40 projects. Wind supplies 9.2% of all electricity generated in the state.

Texas is #3 in the country for the green jobs, with 227,532 in 2012.

Until now, utility Excel Energy has bought most of Texas’ wind energy, but the new transmission lines will finally be able to carry power from wind plants in the western part of the state to all metropolitan areas, including Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

The Cross Texas Transmission system, expected to be finished by year end, already has grid connection contracts with Germany-based EC&R Development, UK-based RES America and Spinning Spur Two, among others.

Even so, the Texas legislature could be tough on renewable energy this year. Along with the federal production tax credit, a state incentive, Chapter 313, has been critical for the growth of the industry in Texas, and it expires next year.

Chapter 311, the Texas Economic Development Act, has been in place since 2011 and allows wind farms to temporarily pay lower property taxes.

Because of the Tea Party’s strong presence in Texas, the natural gas boom and tight budgets, the tax incentive may not be renewed. Legislation has been introduced, however, to renew it until 2014.

And although solar is also growing in Texas, that industry also expects little help from the state. Last year, Texas was in the top 10 states for new solar, adding 64 MW.

Texas’ renewable energy push has "been eclipsed by the effect of fracking," Representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) told the Texas Tribune. 

"If [the tax credit] it’s not renewed, my companies will be investing in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska," Jeffrey Clark, executive director of the Wind Coalition, told the Texas Tribune.        

Meanwhile, an Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) report to the legislature, finds that wind and solar are more cost-competitive than natural gas over the next 20 years.

As in many other states, the state Renewable Portfolio Standard is under attack, even though it has long since been met. Last month, the state’s Public Utility Commission recommended it be repealed.

Of course, the several thousand miles of new transmission lines will be able to carry conventional energy as well as solar and wind.  

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