Everything you want to know about Wind Farms in Texas

Texas is renowned for its dominance in the wind energy market as it produces wind energy equivalent to three abundant wind energy states. In the current scenario, Texas is home to more than 27 GW. Wind energy is an economic and environmental boon for Texans as over $60 million is paid annually through lease payments to landowners, creating opportunities for over 24,000 individuals and reducing CO2 pollution of 48.4 million metric tons. 

Several organizations have recognized Texas as a leader in renewable energy technology, such as the Solar Energy Industries Association and Environmental Defense Fund. The state has a long history of manufacturing and refining wind turbine components (such as blades). Further, Texas is a leading exporter of renewable energy technology and products worldwide. As a highly variable resource, wind can be incorporated into an electric utility’s generation mix with proper understanding and planning. 

Through this enlightening piece, we intend to throw some light on knowledge about wind farms in Texas.  

Rising potential of Wind farms in Texas

Texas, famously known as the “wild west of wind,” is the world’s fifth biggest wind energy generator due to its efficient infrastructure, encouraging state policies, and high wind speeds. 

The economic incentive accompanying the evolving role of renewable resources provides Texans with cost certainty and diminishes price fluctuations in the distant future. Additionally, there is no governmental risk or regulatory requirements associated with wind energy.  

Despite the high reliance on the US oil and gas industry, approximately 26% of the US energy is produced through wind power, making Texas the most prominent state in wind energy generation. 

Five major wind farm projects in Texas

Five large-scale utility wind farms in Texas cover a wide area of the state, based in North and South Texas, an agglomeration of 3 counties Abilene, Midland, and San Angelo. 

  1. Roscoe wind farm- The project is located outside of Abilene. It stretches across four counties with a planned installed capacity of 781.5 MW. It boasts 627 turbines. 
  2. Capricon ridge wind farm- It is commissioned with a capacity of 662.5 MW and lies between Coke and sterling counties. 
  3. Horse Hollow wind farm- It has a total capacity of 735.5 MW. This wind farm uses 421 turbines and is sprawled across 47,000 acres in Nolan and Taylor counties.
  4. Sweetwater wind farm- This 585.3 MW wind farm features 392 turbines in Nolan county. 
  5. Los Vientos wind farm- This cluster of 400 turbines spread throughout South Texas, Starr county, with 200MW spread over 30,000 acres of farmland, providing enough electricity for 60,000 homes. 

Five interesting facts that prove Texas is leading the US in wind energy

  1. Texas holds the record for Wind Energy Production

Throughout the evenings, wind energy met 45% of the state’s electricity needs several times. At one point, wind energy generated more than 14 GW of power or almost 234 million conventional light bulbs worth of electricity.

  1. The wind industry produces $3.3 billion worth of benefits annually.

The American Wind Energy Association claims that the $3.3 billion in annual savings consists of less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen pollution, fewer carbon dioxide emissions, savings against possible fuel price volatilities, and potential increases in other energy sources.

  1. Texas became the first US state to generate 10,000 megawatts of wind power in 2011

In light of this leading figure, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) analyzed the locations with the largest wind energy projects to develop Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs). They installed 3,000 miles of transmission lines to overcome the insufficient transmission infrastructure in eastern Texas to move renewable energy from western to eastern Texas.

  1. Texas was the first US state to require the use of renewable energy sources to meet its electricity needs.

Despite its pro-fossil-fuel image, Texas exceeded renewable energy portfolio standards. The PUCT mandated 5,000 megawatts of new renewable by 2015 and 10,000 megawatts by 2025. Texans are ahead of the game with renewable energy, reaching the 2025 objective in 2011.

  1. The Texas Wind Industry Employs more than 24,000 Workers.

Given that Texas has received the highest amount of wind capital investment of any state over the last ten years ($32.7 billion) or about 25% of the total capital investment in the wind across the US, this is not a surprise. 

How are wind farms shaping the economy of Texas? 

  1. Foreign investment: International companies from Denmark, Finland, Spain, etc., have invested in various wind projects across the US. The latest example is Taaleri Eneef, a Finnish company launched its Escalade wind farm in Texas, which will supply electricity to 115,000 homes. ACCIONA energy, a Spanish renewable energy developer, installed a 93-megawatt san wind farm in Texas. Texas also attracted 43% of all US onshore wind projects, and growth of 47% in 2020 led to the most inward foreign direct investment.
  1. Consumer welfare: Wind energy in Texas provides over 3.3 billion dollars yearly in societal benefits, which include protecting the public from fuel price increases, minimizing public health costs, and producing electricity.
  1. Employment: Wind energy projects create various direct and indirect jobs in construction, development, and installation. According to the renewable energy industry report, wind power projects in Texas employ approximately 26,000 people. Further, 1,079 jobs are created during major wind farm projects, including all stages of manufacturing, development, and planning.

Texas wind farm code and regulations

Commercial and Residential Buildings

Until 1999 except for State-owned buildings, Texas had no state code for wind energy management in commercial and residential buildings. No effort was made to make codes mandatory. The state encouraged people to train and voluntarily adopt different norms to it. Texas adopted its first compulsory state code in June 2001, based on the 2000 IECC. In 2006, Texas discontinued the IECC edition on the recommendation of the Energy Systems Laboratory of Texas A&M University. 

In March 2009, a bill was introduced in Texas State Legislature, adopting the latest efficiency edition of the IRC and the IECC. From April 2011, the 2009 IECC edition became applicable for all commercial and residential buildings, and from January 2012, it became applicable to single-family residential buildings.

State-owned Buildings

In the beginning, Texas adopted ASHRAE/IES 90.1-0989 standard for state-owned buildings. This standard was enacted in June 1989 and was amended in February 1993. In 2002 this standard was used as an energy code for commercial and multi-family residential buildings. In 2011, ASHRAE 90.1-2010 standard was applicable for state-funded buildings. However, for state-owned residential buildings, the CABO MEC Standard was adopted in 1993.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 1736 into the Laws of Texas in June 2015. This shifted the state’s single-family residential code from 2009 to the 2015 international residential code (IRC). All local jurisdictions had to comply with the new code by September 1, 2016.

In September 2019 came the Texas Utilities Code, which gave regulation to wind power facility agreements. Chapter 301, under Title 6 Private Power agreements, provided legal definitions of different terminologies applicable while making these kinds of agreements. In September 2021, changes were made to the Texas Utilities Code by adding Chapter 302, Wind Turbine Siting.

The state of Texas has so far maintained a relaxed approach to making laws for wind farms because the state mostly takes the rulemaking responsibility, and the Federal Commission regulates only 10 percent, like reviewing or permitting a project that does not require federal approval. Wind projects have been mostly left to individual landowners and developers.

Conclusion

The rapidly evolving transition of the wind energy industry in Texas leads us to conclude that it is a promising investment in the renewable energy market. Businesses, large corporations, and individuals will need sustainable energy for years. Favorable market conditions and an efficient workforce indicate a better tomorrow for Texas’s wind industry. 

The governing framework of the wind industry, simplified permitting procedures, updated battery technologies, and centralized energy grid have played an instrumental role in fostering the growth of the Texas wind industry. 

Frequently Asked Question

What are two major issues in wind turbines in Texas?

Texas is the leading accelerator of wind power generation, but two significant limitations are attached to it-

  1. Firstly, the transmission network of Texas in high plains is congested and not technologically effective as a significant amount of energy does not reach the load centers. It requires notable infrastructure advancement and additional transmission lines to move increased energy produced in high plains. 
  2. In addition, there are some challenges related to upgrading wind turbines to cope with the cold climate of Texas without freezing, often a cause of power outages in winter. The wind turbines can be equipped with cold-resistant assets, de-icing mechanisms, etc.