Happy 2016! For those of us in the environmental industry, 2016 has already been a year full of headlines. Some of the more positive headlines however, happened just before the end of 2015. In late December, Texas set a new energy record when it produced 40% of its total electricity by wind for 17 full hours. Take a moment to let that sink in. For 17 straight hours Texas was producing just under HALF of its electricity via wind turbines.
According to Scientific American, on December 20, the Texas panhandle experienced a low-pressure weather system that produced consistent wind speeds of 20-30 mph. At peak of the energy production, wind power accounted for 45% of the total electricity being used by the Texas grid. This enormous amount of energy being produced is significant not only because of the amount of energy being created, but also because of the extensive period of time that energy was being produced.
These record breaking numbers are good news for Texas as demand for wind energy production will likely be increasing. It was reported in early 2015 that Georgetown, Texas would be the first Texas town to make the switch away from traditional fuels and embrace 100% renewable energy. In order to accomplish this, Georgetown will rely on wind energy produced by EDF Renewables at a windfarm 50-miles west of Amarillo, in the Texas panhandle. The deal that Georgetown signed with energy provider SunEdison guaranteed them cheaper rates than they were previously able to obtain from the Lower Colorado River Authority.
Part of the reason renewable energy has started to become so affordable and prolific is due to tax credits provided by the federal government. In an effort to encourage clean energy investments, the United States Congress recently extended the tax credit for renewable energy. This extension opens up billions in funding over the next few years. The renewal of this tax credit signals a departure from previous federal energy incentives and will hopefully provide a simpler, more long-term, investment to promote clean energy production.
As both fossil fuels and wind power are becoming increasingly less expensive, it will be interesting to see how things develop. In the meantime, if you’ve never seen a wind turbine in action I strongly encourage you to take a drive through the Texas Panhandle – I’m sure you’ll be able to find one or two along the way.
Program Manager – Water Wells