Texas’ great energy success

By Cate Long
January 2, 2014

Texas is America’s energy powerhouse, producing 16 percent of domestic energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

  • Texas was the leading crude oil-producing State in the Nation in 2011 and exceeded production levels even from the Federal offshore areas.
  • Texas accounted for 28 percent of U.S. marketed natural gas production in 2011, making it the leading natural gas producer among the States.
  • Texas led the Nation in wind-powered generation capacity in 2010 and is the first State to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind capacity.

Although Texas is known for its oil and natural gas production, it is in the area of wind energy that Texas has hit a new milestone. The state opened a massive electricity transmission grid that was built to gather wind energy produced in West Texas and move it to the population centers in East Texas. It is the first to build infrastructure specifically to support industrial scale production of alternative energy. Here is how it happened, according to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Texas:

Description: The utilities code section 39.904 in conjunction with Senate Bill 20 (2005) established Texas’s Renewable Energy Program and directed the PUC to identify Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ). A CREZ is a geographic area where wind generation facilities will be constructed. In 2008, PUC issued order 33672 designating five CREZs for the generation of wind power and defining the required transmission upgrades to deliver wind generated energy to Texas consumers.

Transmission build-out program: The CREZ project is the PUC’s response to a public mandate to increase renewable energy in Texas to serve the electric needs of the state. The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 7 in 1999, which restructured the state’s electric industry and allowed Transmission Service Providers (TSPs) to offer transmission services to other utilities throughout Texas. Ultimately, the CREZ effort will significantly increase Texas’s current level of wind generation capacity to 18,456 MW.

As a result of this multi-decade effort, the wind energy and transmission network is ready to launch:

A 3,000-mile network of transmission lines designed to bring wind-generated power from West Texas to homes and businesses from Dallas to San Antonio should be fully operational by Tuesday, year’s end.

‘There is a vast amount of wind energy that will suddenly be accessible to cities across Texas,’ said Jeff Clark, executive director of the Wind Coalition, a nonprofit association focused on wind resources throughout the state and the Midwest.

Grid operators are on track to have switched on the last of the power lines developed as part of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones initiative, a $6.8 billion effort that began in 2008.

These lines eventually will provide pathways for up to 18,500 megawatts of electricity to travel from thousands of turbines — each as tall as a football field is long — on the windswept plains around San Angelo, Abilene and Amarillo, the Texas Public Utility Commission reports.

Reuters reported that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that wind energy accounted for 9.2 percent of the power consumed in Texas in 2012, up from 8.5 percent in 2011. Texas continues its dominance in energy production with big infrastructure investments and big returns.

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