Federal report gives Texas wind power lines high marks

HOUSTON — The installation of new transmission lines across Texas has reduced the amount of time wind generators aren’t able to transmit power across the state due to congestion, the U.S. Energy Information Administration wrote this week.

Through a $7 billion project completed last year, 3,500 miles of transmission lines were laid out across Texas, connecting rural regions — where there are wind farms are most prevalent — to the urban centers with high demand for electricity. The project was dubbed Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, or CREZ.

CREZ has reduced incidents of “curtailment,” in which wind generators can’t transmit power through the grid because there’s not enough free space on power lines. That amounts to wasted energy, since the power of wind that’s blowing can no longer be used.

Building out: Interstate transmission line could expand Texas wind market

The state experienced a rapid expansion of its wind capacity from 2006 to 2009. That created congestion on the state grid since the wind plants were concentrated in the rural western and Panhandle parts of the state, far from where there was growing power demand. As a result, the state grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, had to sometimes curtail those wind generators’ operations.

The lack of transmission capacity also prompted an unusual pricing situation, in which rural regions were so oversupplied with wind power — and unable to move it — that there were negative prices for wind power. Generators were willing to pay for the ability to keep producing electricity because federal tax credits and other incentives offset the negative price.

The situation prompted the CREZ build-out, which was seen as big benefit to the state’s wind power industry.

The EIA reports that since the CREZ transmission lines were completed, incidents of both wind curtailment and wind-related negative electricity prices have decreased, suggesting the projects have largely succeeded at their mission.

CREZ lines helped Texas set a wind power generator record one night in March, when wind power generation hit 10,000 megawatts.

Renewable energy generation in Texas increased 12 percent last year. Virtually all of the state’s renewable power generation come from wind.


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