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Report Takes the Wind Out of Texas' Reputation as Renewable Powerhouse

Lizzie Chen for KUT
Texas touts its wind power production, but a new report suggests that the state doesn't utilize that energy, with around 10 percent of the energy on the grid coming from wind turbines.

Texas generates more wind power than any other state in the country. It’s a fact that a lot of people in the state like to crow about, but a new federal review of which states use the most wind as a percentage of their total electricity generation has called that into question. Texas didn’t make the top 10.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iowa leads the country. Thirty-one percent of the electricity generated there last year came from wind. In Texas, the share is just under 10 percent, a percentage that puts Texas at around 12th nationally.

“The most important message from this report is that Texas, rather than declaring victory on wind, should recognize that we still have a long way to grow,” said Jeffery Clark after reviewing the report.

Clarke is head ofthe Wind Coalition, a wind power industry association.

“People have wondered how much wind can we put on the system and operate the system reliably and affordably,” he said. “What other states have shown is that you can integrate a lot of wind.”

But, in a way, the report is comparing apples to oranges, said Fred Beach, a professor at UT Austin who studies wind power.

“There’s something skewing this,” he said. “These [top states] are low-population states, low electricity consumption states and, obviously, they’re windy states.”

Beach says Texas has already shown it can accommodate a greater share of wind on its electric grid, the trick is to look at day-by-day wind power generation, not year-by-year.

“We’ve had days where just at whatever moment wind is providing almost half the electrical power in the state, and there’s no problem," he said. "It’s not dogs and cats living together, fire falling from the sky, grid’s going away. It’s like ‘Oh, sweet! How high can you go?!’”

Regardless of the value of the EIA. ranking, Texas will likely be higher up on the list next year as more wind farms are built.

One of them, run by Amazon, recently broke ground in Scurry County West Texas. It plans to generate enough electricity to power 90,000 homes. 

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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