Thursday, January 2, 2014

Is wind really the new oil in Texas?

Texas was for many years been primarily characterized with oil production but today things look mighty different compared to what they looked like a few decades ago. Wind power is becoming increasingly popular energy option in Texas, with state's wind power capacity increasing all the time. The state of Texas has really set the national standards for harnessing wind energy by generating around 10400 MW of wind electricity in 2011, which is almost three times more compared to second-ranked Iowa that generates around 4300 MW.

Such huge emphasis on wind energy is not all about environmental benefits, and although wind energy is one of the environmentally most friendliest energy sources there is much more to wind energy than "just" being ecologically acceptable. Wind energy also provides significant economic benefits by providing new jobs as well as other sources of income.

Term "other sources of income" primarily refers to the large number of Texas farmers that lease their farms so the wind power can be generated. The prices are not bad either as farmer can receive up to $60 per acre to generate wind power. The additional benefit in this whole story is that the land is still adequate for producing food.

Texas certainly doesn't plan to stop its tremendous growth in installed wind power capacity because Texas has so far used only small part of its huge wind energy potential. In fact, according to the latest report from The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) currently installed wind capacity in Texas counts less than 9% of nameplate capacity so there's plenty of room for further growth.

The bigger wind power capacity means more well paid green jobs, in fact the latest estimates show that every new megawatt of installed wind capacity creates around 5 new green jobs, both direct (manufacturing, construction, operations) and indirect (advertising, office support, etc.).

Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't some problems on the way, and currently the biggest problem with wind power in Texas is not enough transmission lines. But Texas is already solving this problem by establishing the $5 billion project to ensure the transmission of electricity generated by West Texas wind farms to customers in the large cities.

There are currently around 40 wind farms in Texas, with the largest being Roscoe Wind Farm. Roscoe Wind Farm with the capacity of 781 MW is not only the largest wind farm in Texas, but also nationwide. Other large wind farms in Texas include: Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, Sherbino Wind Farm and Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm. The state even plans its first offshore wind energy project, a 300 MW offshore wind farm in Galveston.

If wind energy sector continues this impressive growth in years to come then wind could soon become more important than oil in the state of Texas. The growing wind power market should help Texas meet its 2015 renewable energy target of 5,000 new megawatts of power coming from renewable energy sources.

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