When we think about Texas, we think of oil and conservative politics. But Texas is also earning a reputation as a leading state for integrating renewable energy into its electric grid.
Texas has led the nation for years in installed wind energy capacity. A $7 billion investment about ten years ago to build transmission lines between windy West Texas and the load centers elsewhere in the state has enabled Texas to rely heavily on wind power. At times, wind provides more than 40% of the state’s electricity for hours at a time.
But there isn’t always that much wind blowing. What is more impressive is that overall, in 2017, Texas generated 18% of its electricity from wind and solar power. Critics of renewable energy have argued that grid costs and reliability will spiral out of control before renewables reach 20% levels. This has certainly not happened in Texas and, in fact, retail electricity prices have actually decreased, coming in well below the U.S. average.
Texas’s achievements in integrating renewable energy into its grid are particularly impressive because the Texas grid is essentially completely isolated from the other two primary U.S. grids. The Eastern Interconnection ties the grids in the eastern half of the country and the Western Interconnection does the same in the West. Texas does not have other places to send power and balance energy.
Texas has large amounts of new wind and solar capacity under development. It won’t be long before it passes the storied 20% barrier. It isn’t a trivial matter, but looking ahead, battery storage costs are declining, electrical demand is getting more flexible, and grid operators will get better and better at integrating renewable energy.
Photo, posted June 24, 2017, courtesy of Daxis via Flickr.