- Wind energy-generated electricity hit a new record in Texas by meeting 45% of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)'s demand on Dec. 20, 2015. Sustained wind speeds of 20 mph to 30 mph across the Texas Panhandle helped the grid operator gain 13.9 GW of power at the peak, Scientific American reports.
- Near record wind power levels of over 10 GW were sustained throughout Dec. 20 without causing instability to the ERCOT grid because the state has ample fast-ramping natural gas generation, which can adjust its output to balance out the intermittent resource.
- Though wind energy output was at high levels throughout Dec. 19 and 20 and significantly lower on Dec. 18 and 21, ERCOT’s system maintained its reliability due to both natural gas and demand management resources.
The duration of wind energy meeting almost half of ERCOT's demand showcases the grid's ability to handle sustained amounts of the resource without significant reliability issues.
Texas had the most installed wind capacity of any state at the end of the third quarter in 2015 with 16,406 MW. The state's 771 MW new wind capacity built in Q3 2015 was also the most of any state, and it led in wind capacity under construction with over 6,300 MW.
Texas' renewables mandate of 5,880 MW by 2015 set in 1999 was a major driver in achieving its current wind capacity. The state met the mandate in 2005 thanks to wind energy, and the economic value proposition continued to drive growth until the capacity of the ERCOT grid, which serves about 80% of the state, was maxed out.
That led to the second important driver: Under former Governor Rick Perry (R), Texas designated competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) in West Texas and the Panhandle, committing $7 billion to deliver wind energy to metropolitan load centers.
The planned $2 billion Panhandle CREZ expansion should also help Texas use wind energy to comply with its mandate carbon emission cuts under the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Under the finalized regulations, Texas will have to cut carbon emissions from its power sector nearly 33% by 2030.