In the wind rush across the country, Texas is king. Nearly 9,500 wind turbines tower over the diverse landscape between the Gulf Coast and the Panhandle, producing more than 15,600 megawatts of electricity – nearly 10 percent of the state’s total energy generation. On Thursday, all those whirling turbines generated almost 37 percent of the state’s electricity use in the midnight hour, setting a new record for the burgeoning low-carbon technology.
This would be no surprise for those closely following a White House meeting on climate change for business leaders earlier last week, where Texas wind was credited as a critical component of many companies’ commitments to ambitious climate-protection targets at their U.S. operations.
Several of the 81 companies that have now signed on with President Barack Obama’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge have indicated their Texas wind purchases are providing a key plank in their low-carbon, renewable energy strategies.
The White House session featuring corporate executives and their companies’ emission-cutting pledges was part of an event called the White House Summit on Climate and the Road through Paris.
Among those urging a “strong outcome” at December’s climate negotiations in Paris, according to a White House announcement, was Proctor & Gamble, which promoted its partnership with EDF Renewable Energy to develop 100 megawatts of Texas wind power. That’s enough electricity to power all of its North American plants dedicated to the production of home care products while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 200,000 metric tons per year.
Unilever, another Climate Pledge supporter, reported that it has already covered 100 percent of its U.S. energy use with renewable power thanks to a power-purchase agreement with NRG Energy for 90 megawatts of Texas wind-generated electricity.
Texas doesn’t appear to be in any danger of losing its leading position among U.S. states in generating wind power. No. 2 California, for instance, trails by about 10,000 megawatts of wind capacity. An additional 6,800 megawatts are under construction in Texas, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and may come online next year.
At Obama’s climate summit, Tri Global Energy, Texas’s leading wind-energy company, pledged major new investments in coming years, including an expansion into the state’s solar-power market. Solar development in Texas has lagged behind the state’s wind sector and trails the solar industry in various other states.
“Tri Global Energy believes that solar-energy growth will be tremendous during the next five to 10 years, especially in states like Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona,” John Billingsley, Tri Global Energy’s chairman and CEO, wrote Texas Climate News by email.
Under its wind column, Tri Global expects to bring another 2,400 megawatts of wind power into production by the end of 2018, much of which will be in Texas, where the company operates 15 wind generation projects.
While continued growth of the wind industry depends on the renewal of federal production tax credits, Billingsley credits Texas weather and state lawmakers for the growth that has occurred so far.
“Texas has outpaced other states and is by far the leading state in producing renewable energy,” he wrote. “This position is a result of Texas being blessed with abundant wind and solar energy and also, most importantly, is the commitment made by Texas to the renewable energy infrastructure along with its great effort of bringing new industry and jobs to the state.”
– Greg Harman
Greg Harman, an independent journalist in San Antonio, is a contributing editor of Texas Climate News.