Texas is quickly becoming one of the nation's leading wind power producers. Typically associated with its massive oil and gas industry, the Lone Star State is making massive investments in its wind power infrastructure and is poised to deliver more of this renewable energy to major metropolitan areas in the eastern half of the state.
Legislative incentives and an abundance of wind in the Texas panhandle have much to do with the explosion of this industry.
Northern Texas serves as an excellent location for wind farms, with average wind speeds close to 25 miles per hour in some areas. Additionally, Texas added changes to its tax code in 2011 that allowed wind farms and renewable energy producers to pay lower property tax rates. These two conditions have paved the way for greater reliance on wind to power Texas homes and businesses.
The biggest obstacle to the integration of wind power into the Texas power grid is geography. While most of the major wind farms in Texas are located in the Panhandle and northern areas, the major metropolitan areas like San Antonio and Houston lie in the east. To remedy this problem, Texas is investing $6.8 billion in its power transmission infrastructure, doubling its capacity to send electricity to cities like Houston, San Antonio and Dallas in the east.
According to Sustainable Business, a website that tracks the global green industry, Texas derives 9.2 percent of its total energy from wind power with an installed capacity of 12.2 gigawatts.
Going forward, the question is if Texas and other states will stick with their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), policies that are meant to set benchmarks for how much energy is derived from renewable sources. Residents of states with RPS guidelines will reap many benefits from the transition to renewable energy, including improved air quality and less exposure to volatile fuel prices.