According to a report from the Texas grid operators, more power from state’s wind farms and solar installations is getting to consumers.
In 2013, the renewable power sector saw its output rise by more than 4 million megawatt-hours, the largest increase in four years. That amounted to a 12 percent increase over the previous year. At the same time, capacity for renewable sources increased only 2 percent.
Of the 38 million megawatt-hours of renewable power generated last year, all but 3 percent came from wind farms. To bring that electricity to cities like Dallas and Houston, $7 billion in transmission lines from West Texas were completed last year under the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) project.
“The numbers are pretty obvious,” said Russel Smith, executive director of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TRIEA).
“With the completion of the CREZ lines there’s more space for wind power, which had to be curtailed in recent years. And it seems like there’s been a better wind regime than in past years, with the more frequent cold fronts.”
Since the Legislature set up an incentive program for renewable energy in 1999, wind has dominated the sector. That is expected to continue.
Within the grid operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which covers most of the state, there are now 11,000 megawatts of wind power. That number is set to grow by more than 8,000 megawatts by 2017.
As turbines get more efficient, the agency is rethinking how large a role wind power will play in the future, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for ERCOT.
“We’re getting more wind generation on the coast where the operating conditions are different,” she said. “Things are improving.”
Solar power saw the largest percentage gain of all the renewable sources. Generation from commercial solar farms and some residential programs grew by a third to almost 180,000 megawatt-hours.
And with a number of large-scale solar farms under development in West Texas, that number is expected to grow exponentially in the years ahead. Recurrent Energy announced that it was building a 150-megawatt farm, which would be the largest in Texas.