Texas Is Drowning in Wind Energy
Texas has made a massive investment in wind power, and the turbines are starting to move. 18,000 megawatts (MW) of wind generation capacity are already up and running, and 5,500 more are coming soon. But there’s a problem: It’s hard to build the infrastructure to get all that energy to people. There’s a serious possibility that turbines will have to be turned off at times to keep from overloading the system.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Back in 2014, Texas unveiled the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), a $6.8 billion transmission line project that spanned 3,600 miles of the Lone Star State. Meant as a hub for multiple major metro areas including Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. “It’s a major milestone,” Terry Hadley, a spokesman for the Public Utility Commission, told The Texas Tribune as it neared completion. Going one step further, Jeff Clark, executive director at the Wind Coalition, a regional partner of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), predicted that “CREZ will turn out to be the most visionary thing this state has ever done electricity-wise.”
That was then. Now Texas is expecting 21,000 MW of electricity, and CREZ is only built to handle 18,500. To put that in context, a typical coal plant handles 600 MW. That might mean that turbines will have to rest idle at times. This isn’t the first time or place for this to happen. The UK has also struggled with the challenge of surplus power, and energy surpluses in Chile—which have resulted in straight-up free power—are starting to have negative effects on the energy industry. It’s not the worst problem to have, but it’s still a problem.