NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Texas Wind Energy Fails, Again

August 31, 2011

Last Wednesday brought yet another unspeakably hot day to Texas and, alas, it was yet another day when wind energy failed the state's consumers, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

  • Texas has 10,135 megawatts of installed wind-generation capacity, which is nearly three times as much as any other state.
  • And yet, last week, when the state's electricity demand hit 66,552 megawatts, all of the state's wind turbines mustered just 880 megawatts of power when electricity was needed the most.
  • Put another way, even though wind turbines account for about 10 percent of Texas' 103,000 megawatts of summer electricity-generation capacity, wind energy was able to provide just 1.3 percent of the juice the state needed last Wednesday afternoon.

None of this should be surprising.  

  • For years, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has counted just 8.7 percent of the state's installed wind-generation capacity as "dependable capacity at peak."
  • What happened last week?
  • Just 880 megawatts out of 10,135 megawatts of wind capacity -- 8.68 percent -- was actually moving electrons when consumers needed those electrons the most.

Consider what might be happening had the state kept the $6.79 billion it's now spending on wind-energy transmission lines and instead allocated it to new natural-gas-fired generators.

  • The latest data from the Energy Information Administration show that building a megawatt of new wind capacity costs $2.43 million -- up 21 percent over the year-earlier costs -- while a new megawatt of gas-fired capacity costs a bit less than $1 million, a drop of 3 percent from year-earlier estimates.
  • Under that scenario, Texas could have built 6,900 megawatts of new gas-fired capacity for what the state is now spending on wind-related transmission lines alone.

Source: Robert Bryce, "Texas Wind Energy Fails, Again," National Review, August 29, 2011.

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