The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is one of three interconnections that provide electricity in the continental United States, and it currently manages 90% of the electricity used in Texas. In 2019, wind turbines generated 20% of the electricity used in ERCOT, and wind is on track to overtake coal as the second greatest source of energy generation in the interconnection. In 2014, wind only accounted for 10.7% of the energy generated for ERCOT. While there are many contributing factors that help explain the growth of wind energy in Texas, one reason is the completion and use of the CREZ transmission lines for ERCOT.
Wind energy is primarily produced in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle, which are not near the population centers of Texas, located in the south and east. Prior to 2015, wind generators could experience curtailment, which, in this case, is when there is insufficient infrastructure to deliver wind energy where it can be used. Accordingly, Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) were identified and the project to construct power lines connecting the wind generating areas of Texas to the population centers was completed in 2015. In total, the infrastructure moving power from the CREZ stretched 3,500 miles and cost $7 billion.
Ultimately, the infrastructure connecting CREZ to the population centers of Texas has reduced incidents of curtailment and has allowed wind energy to grow. One can expect that as transmission infrastructure and capacity from West Texas and the Texas Panhandle grow, alternative energies will continue to grow and be a greater part of the Texas energy grid.
Sara Hoff, U.S. Electric System is Made Up of Interconnections and Balancing Authorities, U.S. Energy Information Administration, July 20, 2016, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=27152 (last visited July 16, 2020).
Fact Sheet, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, June 2020, http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/197391/ERCOT_Fact_Sheet_6.1.20.pdf (last visited July 16, 2020).
L.M. Sixel, Wind has Almost Edged Out Coal for No. 2 Position in Texas, Hous. Chron., Jan. 10, 2020, https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Wind-has-almost-edged-out-coal-for-No-2-position-14964501.php.
Fuel Mix Report: 2007, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, http://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/generation (last visited July 16, 2020).
Ryan Holeywell, Transmission Line Project Boosted Texas Wind Power, Hous. Chron., June 25, 2014, https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Transmission-line-project-boosted-Texas-wind-power-5580077.php.
Image Source: CREZ Project Status, EIA (April 2014), https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=16831#tabs_SpotPriceSlider-2 (last visited July 16, 2020).
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