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Wind

Texans traditionally used wind energy to pump well water for cattle, but today wind power increasingly is used for commercial-scale electricity production. During the last decade, wind energy growth rates worldwide exceeded 30 percent annually, driven in part by improved technology and government policies.

In the last three years, the U.S. and Texas wind energy markets have experienced a rapid expansion of capacity. Wind power was the leading source of electricity capacity added in Texas during 2006 and 2007, exceeding additions of all other types of power plants combined.134

Wind power is an abundant, widely distributed energy resource that has zero fuel cost, zero emissions and zero water use. Wind’s drawbacks are largely related to its variable nature and the fact that the best areas for generating wind energy are often found far from Texas’ urban centers. Wind speed and direction can change by the season, day and hour and thus require backup from power plants that can run anytime, such as coal or gas plants. Wind farms in parts of Texas also require hundreds of miles of new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from its source to customers in more populated areas of the state, resulting in significant transmission costs. Wind energy has high up front capital costs that currently make it dependent on federal subsidies.

Cost

Per Million Btu Wind has no fuel cost.
Direct Subsidy Share of Total Consumer Spending Federal: 11.6 percent; State and Local: 0.2 percent.135
Notes Transmission costs may be higher for wind than for other fuels since wind resources typically are located far from major cities. The subsidy share of total spending may increase in coming years as school district property tax appraised value limitations under Tax Code, Chapter 313, become fully vested.

Economic Impact and Viability

Wages and Jobs Economic data on the Texas wind energy industry are not available. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that six to ten permanent operations and maintenance jobs are created for every 100 MW of installed wind capacity. One hundred MW of installed wind capacity also creates about 100 to 200 short-term construction jobs.136
Regulatory Climate In Texas, the siting of wind and other types of power plants is unregulated by state and county governments. Wind plants must adhere to city zoning ordinances and obtain any applicable state permits regarding air, water or wastewater. Federal involvement is limited, although wind turbines are subject to Federal Aviation Administration requirements and are discouraged from locating where they could adversely affect air traffic or radar systems.
Texas Competitive Advantage Texas has led the U.S. in wind power installations for three consecutive years due to its exceptional wind sites, attractive market structure and business-friendly regulatory environment. The Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research center, has ranked Texas second among states in wind potential.
Notes As with other energy projects, wind projects can strengthen rural economic development by bringing economic activity to areas of the state with few other industries.

Availability and Current Infrastructure

Estimated Resources in Texas A mid-1990s study commissioned by the State Energy Conservation Office found that Texas has enough wind power potential to generate a total of 524,800 MW.137 This estimate assumes that wind turbines spaced 10 blade diameters apart cover all windy areas of the state and are operating at maximum capacity. Since wind is variable, actual generation would be substantially less than this amount. Utility-scale wind turbines typically operate with a capacity factor ranging from 25 to 40 percent, though they may exceed these amounts during windy months and decline during the peak summer months. The state’s largest power grid (ERCOT) currently has 68,793 MW of generating capacity.138
Current Fuel Production N/A
Consumption in Texas The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s largest power grid, reports that wind energy accounted for 2.9 percent of the electricity generated in its region in 2007.139 However, due to the variable and seasonal nature of wind energy as well as seasonal fluctuations in demand for energy, the proportion of energy from wind tends to vary month-to-month. For example, in 2007 wind accounted for 1.4 percent of electricity generated in July and 4.3 percent in December. Wind accounted for 4.5 percent of the electricity generated in ERCOT in January 2008, compared with 1.9 percent the previous January.140
Notes Given the variable nature of wind, other power plant capacity is required to provide electricity when wind resources are not available.

Environment, Health and Safety

Greenhouse Gas Emissions None.
Air Pollution (Non-Greenhouse Gas) None.
Solid Waste No significant issues.
Land Use Wind farms may extend over thousands of acres, but the wind turbines themselves occupy only a small percentage of the land, allowing farmers and ranchers to use the land for other activities.141 Transmission lines for wind-generated electricity often cross the property of many landowners. Property owners leasing land for wind turbine development receive a steady income, while landowners with transmission towers and lines passing through their land receive only a one-time payment.
Water Withdrawal No significant issues.
Water Consumption No significant issues.
Water Quality No significant issues.
Notes Turbines may interfere with wildlife migration and cause bird and bat mortality.142

Fuel Characteristics

Energy Content Variable – depends on location, weather conditions and time of day.
Renewability Wind energy is a renewable resource.

Other Issues

Dependence on Foreign Suppliers No significant issues.
Price and Supply Risks Prices are intrinsically less volatile than other sources of energy that depend on purchased fuel, but higher upfront capital costs mean that this energy source depends upon government subsidies to remain affordable for consumers.
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