Texas hits new wind power milestone on Thursday

The Texas electric grid hit a new record for wind power use early Thursday, as the state continues dominating the rest of the nation in wind farm growth.

At 12:30 am Thursday, the main Texas grid operator reported that nearly 37 percent of demand was met with wind power. The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which manages nearly 90 percent of the state’s electric needs, said it used 12,237.6 megawatts of wind power at the time. That bested a previous record set on Sept. 13 of 11,467 megawatts.

A megawatt powers about 500 typical Texas residences during periods of normal demand.

The new record came the same day as the American Wind Energy Association reported Texas accounted for nearly half of the nation’s wind power growth in the third quarter of the year. Texas added 771 megawatts of wind generation in the third quarter and, nationwide, about 1,600 megawatts were put online. Texas now has about 16,400 megawatts of wind power, according to the AWEA, which is about 10,000 megawatts more than the second and third windiest states, California and Iowa.

Texas is expected to exceed 20,000 megawatts next year. Further growth after 2016 may depend on whether Congress extends the production tax credit for wind projects.

“Texas is continuing its market dominance,” said John Hensley, industry data manager for the AWEA.

The wind association praised recent project announcements like SunEdison saying it will build the 300-megawatt South Plains II wind farm northeast of Lubbock to power Hewlett-Packard data centers, and Monday’s announcement that EDF Renewable Energy will build a 123-megawatt wind project north of Dallas to power Procter & Gamble plants that make its laundry, dish-washing and other cleaning products.

Some companies are even studying ways for wind to power the production of oil and gas. Norway-based DNV GL has partners with Exxon Mobil Corp., Statoil and others on the “WIN WIN” joint industry project to use floating wind turbines to power offshore oil and gas production.

While admittedly not viable yet, DNV GL said Thursday the technical analysis phase is expected to be finished in the first quarter of 2016. So floating wind turbines could be a realistic possibility even in the Gulf of Mexico in the coming years.

“Initial results are promising and, with the (oil and gas) operators on board, we are able to test the concept on real cases,” said Johan Sandberg, DNV GL floating wind turbine segment leader, in the announcement.

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