Texas officials Thursday approved the construction of nearly five billion dollars worth of electricity transmission lines to carry power generated by new wind farms in West Texas and the Panhandle to metropolitan areas of the state such as Austin, Dallas and Houston.
The three-member Texas Public Utility Commission selected a transmission scenario that will eventually transmit a total of 18,456 megawatts of wind power to customers.
Turbines on a West Texas wind farm (Photo by Alice Noyes)
The commission expects that the new transmission lines will be in service within four to five years.
Senate Bill 20, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2005, directed the commission to select the most productive wind zones in Texas and devise a transmission plan to move power generated from these zones to various populated areas in the state.
Earlier this year, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the agency which oversees the stateís electric grid, responded to an order from the Public Utility Commission to provide several scenarios for the transmission of the new influx of electricity from Texas windfarms.
The Public Utility Commission selected scenario 2, which is estimated to cost $4.93 billion in total.
There is a strong demand for grid connections right now to transmit the electricity that will be generated by new windfarms.
ERCOT is currently tracking 246 active generation interconnection requests, including almost 54,000 megawatts of wind generation, the staff reported to the council's Board of Directors on Wednesday.
The utility planners are also keeping the activities of Texas energy executive T. Boone Pickens in mind. In May, Pickens announced that his company, Mesa Power, has ordered the first 667 wind turbines for the Pampa Wind Project in the Texas Panhandle.
Pickens says the Pampa project will be the world's largest windfarm. When complete in 2014, it is expected to generate more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity to feed into the Texas grid, enough to power 1.3 million homes.
The U.S. wind industry grew by 45 percent in 2007, and over half of that growth was contributed by Texas, according to the State Energy Conservation Office.
With 5,300 installed megawatts, Texas is the leading wind state in the United States, accounting for close to one-third of the nationís total installed wind capacity, which is the equivalent of the electricity needed to power more than one million Texas homes.
A single megawatt of wind energy can produce as much energy used by about 230 typical Texas homes in a year.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.