Wind power hits Texas record

New West Texas transmission lines helped Lone Star wind power reach new gusty heights, hitting a record of more than 10,000 megawatts of generation late Wednesday night.

The new West Texas transmission lines – with the unwieldy name of Competitive Renewable Energy Zone lines – cost the state almost $7 billion by the time they were completed last December, but are expected to earn their keep, giving the state the ability to nearly double its use of wind energy.

“These Texas wind records were made possible by the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission lines earlier this year,” said Michael Goggin, the transmission expert for the American Wind Energy Association in a written statement “These power lines connect world-class wind energy resource areas in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to electricity demand centers in other parts of the state.”

Wind generation accounted for nearly 30 percent of the 35,768 megawatts of electricity at its peak that evening, and made up nearly 40 percent the following morning, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

One megawatt is enough electricity to power about 200 homes during periods when electric use is highest and about 500 homes during mild weather when less electricity is being consumed.

The new record beats a prior one earlier this month by more than 600 megawatts, and is also the record for wind generation in any U.S. power system.

The new West Texas transmission lines, an almost $7 billion investment completed last December, are expected to allow the state to nearly double its use of wind energy, Goggin said.

The Texas grid has more than 11,000 Megawatts of commercial wind power capacity, as well as an additional 8,000 megawatts of projects in development and another 26,700 megawatts under study, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid for about 90 percent of the state.

Wind power made up 9.9 percent of the total energy used in the Texas region in 2013, up from 9.2 percent in 2012.