Texas may be known as an oil country, but wind energy’s role in Texas is often overlooked. Texas is the biggest producer of wind energy in the US, more so than the next three states (Iowa, Oklahoma, and California) combined. The EIA’s data on each state’s wind generation capacity can be found here, on page 138. There are several reasons for Texas’ dominance in wind energy:
- The low price of generating electricity from wind. Wind, like solar and some other renewable technologies, has only upfront cost. Once the turbine is built, generating electricity is free. For this reason, wind energy provided a compelling economic case for many private investors and cities.
- An abundance of land in central Texas. Central Texas has an abundance of prime real estate to place these wind turbines. Many are located on family-owned lands, and the turbine owner usually pays the landowner a few thousand dollars each year to place the turbine on the property—money that flows right into the heart of Texas communities.
- A favorable regulatory environment. Texas is open to private investment into wind energy and renewables, which speeds up investment and project completion time.
- The flexibility provided from ERCOT. Texas maintains its own electric grid, ERCOT, which allows it to make decisions on its own. In contrast, many smaller states share electric grids, so decision-making is slowed down by the need to consult multiple groups. In particular, ERCOT was quick to approve the construction of thousands of miles of transmission cables to move wind energy from generation sites in central Texas to demand centers like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston.
Wind energy has been a win-win for everyone, resulting in lower prices for consumers, economic benefits for investors and land owners, and energy security for the state and nation.