Texas breezes along as US wind power leader

Prairie  winds, along with favorable tax credits and transmission line improvements, are keeping Texas well ahead of other states in new wind power generation.

The Lone Star State added about 1,826 megawatts in new wind capacity in 2012 -– about twice as much as California, which came in second, according to an annual Department of Energy report issued  Tuesday morning.

While Texas leads the pack, California, Kansas and Oklahoma also added more than 1,000 megawatts each of new wind power capacity last year.

“The United States has become quite fond of wind, and Texas is leading that,” said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water technologies office for the Department of Energy, in an interview with FuelFix. “Texas has a remarkable wind resource.”

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Also boosting wind growth in Texas is the state electric network’s independence from grids in other states, Zayas said, which allows policy makers and regulators to  make decisions about infrastructure without having to negotiate across state lines.

The state also benefits from early political support for wind energy in the 1990s, Zayas said.

The 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report by  the Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory describes  trends in the U.S. wind power market.

Uncertainties over the future of  a production tax credit that gives wind developers a 2.2-cent tax break for every kilowatt-hour of energy produced may have accelerated wind turbine construction at the beginning of 2012. The credit was set to expire at the end of the year, but lawmakers extended it until the end of 2013. Wind supporters said at the time that the renewal of the tax credit would stimulate more wind construction in 2013.

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Texas grid operators estimate that wind contributes 8.7 percent of the state’s peak demand capacity,  but that the proportion probably is growing.

The United States, which has about 60,000 megawatts of wind power on the grid, is slightly behind China’s 75,000 megawatts in terms of total capacity. But in 2012 the U.S. led  in new capacity, adding 13,100 megawatts, beating out  China’s 12,900 megawatts of new wind power.

New domestic wind generation made up almost half of all new electric additions and accounted for $25 billion in U.S. investment. Germany, India and the United Kingdom each added about 2,000 megawatts of wind capacity in 2012.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates most of the state grid, says one  megawatt can power about 200 Texas residences during the summer, when air conditioners raise electricity consumption.

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Nationwide, wind power capacity can meet about 4.4 percent of electricity demand.

That lags well behind global leader Denmark, which generates  30 percent of its electricity with  wind.

“The U.S. has shown that wind can be a growing part of the energy mix of the future,” Zayas said. “I think it is doing remarkably well, and when we think about wind energy as 4 percent of the total mix, there are huge opportunities.”

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