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March 15, 2012

Texas Wind Energy Shatters Records

Texas wind energy

Don't mess with wind.

Texas, the state that wears the gold medal for wind energy, is turning the month of March into a record-setter after its energy authority, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), turned on the switch of a new tool that calculates conditions and needs in real time. Add this to the fact that nine megawatts of coastal wind generation just in the month of February was added, and what you have is a windy extravaganza.

Last week, wind output reached 7,599 MW, breaking the record by 200 MW. At that point, power generation of total wind capacity reached 77 percent, "well above the average 30 to 40 percent of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce," reports Reuters. The previous record was set the day before when on March 6 wind generation hit 7,403 MW.

This new tool measures the wind and "transmission limits" every half-hour, adjusting with the gusts and "incorporating knowledge of the most current conditions available," says Greentech Media. 

"March is typically a high wind month for ERCOT, but these new records are also due in part to a new transmission analysis tool we started using this week that allows us to move more wind energy from the west zone," Kent Saathoff, ERCOT's director of grid operations and system planning, said in a statement.

Texas' wind-energy infrastructure generally tilts in one direction, with turbines in the windy west supplying the populated east. Modernizing transmission lines has lagged behind this explosion of turbine building in recent years.

However, billions of bucks are invested into its grid and more wind projects are sprouting along the Gulf Coast. Duke Energy hopes to add more than 400 MW with the completion of a coastal wind farm by the end of this year.

There are more than 800 MW of wind capacity under construction statewide, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The wind sector accounts for more than 8,000 jobs, says the AWEA, a figure bound to increase as more megawatts of clean energy plug in.

-- Brian Foley

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