Free Electricity in Texas Thanks to Wind Energy

In Texas, wind farms are producing so much electricity that it’s becoming a selling point for the state’s utilities – free electricity at night!

That’s right, all the electricity customers use from 9PM to 6AM is free.

Why? Because since Texas deregulated utilities, competition is intense, and if they can get people to shift energy use away from daytime peak hours, utilities can buy energy cheaper while avoiding the need for building more power plants. And it’s a selling point to keep their customers.

Indeed, residential customers save as much as $50 a month during the peak summer season, reports the NY Times.

Texas electricity

10.6% of the state’s electricity comes from wind as of 2014, powering about 3.3 million homes. While the grid is regional in the rest of the US, Texas has its own, mostly separate grid, which means all the wind energy produced stays in the state.

Winds are stronger at night, producing more electricity.

Utility TXU’s "Time of Use Plan" offers free electricity at night and slightly higher rates during the day to encourage people to adjust when they use appliances like dishwashers and washing machines. The company is widely advertising the plan in radio and TV commercials, on highway billboards and in social media campaigns, reports the NY Times.

"We are still in the formative stages of this," Paul Wattles at grid operator Ercot, told the NY Times. "If we can reach critical mass – and 290,000 is already a pretty good number – but if that number started to double or triple, you could start seeing a significant shifting of load, and that is the whole point."

Soon, however, energy storage systems will start working in tandem with wind, allowing the energy to be used throughout the day. That will help Texas use a lot more than 10% electricity.

Texas, the top state for wind capacity, has more than 14.1 gigawatts (GW) installed in 127 projects and there’s 7.6 GW more in the pipeline. ERCOT expects to get 15% of electricity from wind by 2017.

Still, bright Red Texas is one of 26 states suing the EPA to prevent the Clean Power Plan from taking effect.

This year, Dallas ranks #1 in the US for municipal renewable energy use, followed by Houston, which was #1 last year. In Dallas, all government buildings run on 100% wind and Houston gets half its electricity from a mix of wind and solar.

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