On December 20th, sustained winds of 20-30 mph provided 40% of the state’s power in Texas for 17 hours straight. At their peak, the winds generated 13.9 gigawatts of power, fulfilling 45% of the state’s total electricity needs – enough to power over 230 million incandescent bulbs. Despite the sustained surge of power, the energy grid was able to function without any instability or brownouts, making this a major win for wind energy.
This news may seem surprising, given Texas’s reputation as an oil and gas state, but it was actually the second state in the country to pass laws requiring that a certain percentage of all power come from renewable sources. In fact, the state has spent billions developing its renewable power grid, and has built up double the wind generation capacity of any other US state.
While last month’s record-smashing day is certainly encouraging, it’s important to note that winter is the season when West Texas sees the strongest winds, so year-round power production isn’t likely to reach these numbers. Throughout the year of 2014, wind power only provided about 10% of the state’s electricity. This makes it clear that a variety of renewable energy approaches are needed if we truly want to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for power.