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Wind Power Capacity Has Surpassed Coal in Texas

Scientists at UT predict that by 2019, the state will get more energy from wind than coal.

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Wind turbine on the Texas prairie.
Thinkstock

Wind power capacity edged out coal for the first time in the Texas history last week after a new 155-megawatt wind farm in Scurry County came online. The farm in question is the Fluvanna Wind Energy Project, located on some 32,000 acres leased from more than 130 landowners.

Fluvanna pushed total wind power capacity in the state to more than 20,000 megawatts, while coal capacity stands at 19,800 megawatts and is slated to fall to 14,700 megawatts by the end of 2018 thanks to planned coal powerplant closures. Next year, Luminant will shutter three coal-fired plants—Monticello, Sandow, and Big Brown—and San Antonio’s CPS Energy will close J.T. Deely Station. Wind capacity in the state will reach 24,400 megawatts by the end of 2018, according to projections from Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at UT Austin’s Energy Institute.

But capacity is one thing, electricity generation is another. In the first ten months of 2017, wind generated 17.2 percent of power in the state, and coal 31.9 percent, according to ERCOT. But wind should soon see large gains there. “By our analysis, in 2019 we’ll have more energy from wind than coal,” Rhodes said.

The next hurdle for wind is improvements in batteries. “Without good storage, there is a limit to how much energy you can get from renewables,” Rhodes said. But impressive strides are being made, Rhodes added, pointing to a 100-megawatt lithium-ion battery that Tesla just switched on in the state of South Australia Friday. (The football-field-sized battery is the largest in the world. Tesla’s Elon Musk promised to deliver the finished $50 million battery within one hundred days of signing the contract, or it would be free. The company took only sixty days to complete the task.) Maybe some enterprising Texas mayor can give Musk a call next.

The Fluvanna Wind farm is located across the highway from Amazon Wind Farm Texas that came online in late October. That farm—built, owned, and operated by Lincoln Clean Energy—is the largest of Amazon’s eighteen existing wind and solar projects. Amazon has signed an agreement to buy 90 percent of the farm’s output to power its cloud data centers.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos marked the opening of his company’s farm in October by making his way to the top of one three-hundred-foot turbine, where he smashed a bottle of champagne beneath his feet. And, naturally, promptly posted the video footage to Twitter.

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  • hipshot

    Not sure where you are getting your generation percentages from or what you are actually measuring. But a 3 second google search and read found this:https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX
    Glad we are making progress but your data and real world don’t mesh. See the Production tab and Electricity tab. Coal has been on the way out for a long time. Natural Gas is 5X ALL other renewables. Coal is 3X.

    • Andrea

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    • Roland

      She’s using ERCOT data. (follow link in article to download spreadsheet). This is not the entire state of Texas, though. EIA data has wind at 14.4% through September for all of Texas. ( 49,557 wind/ 343370 total)

  • Dude1394

    Good lord those things are ugly as sin. An abomination.

    • Jed

      agreed. a good old rusty pump is much easier on the eyes.

    • Jerome Barry

      Few, very few, will see them. After hours of driving from the nearest outpost of civilization, the wind farms present a welcome change of view. Believe me.

      • Dude1394

        No they are not. They destroy the view and destroy wildlife. Disgusting things.

  • Roland

    WInd power capacity in Texas has been more than 20,000 MW for more than a year. The completion of Fluvanna Wind farm did not push it past that mark.

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  • 196ski

    “Wind Power Capacity Has Surpassed Coal in Texas”.

    It’s sort of a misleading and not very informative title. I guess the best response, and not trying to be glib, would be, “so what?”

    Wind is working in Texas except for when the wind isn’t blowing, or when it is blowing too hard, and then some form of fossil or nuclear is steps in and handles the load.