At 8:48 p.m. on March 26, wind generation on the electric grid covering most of the state of Texas reached a new instantaneous peak output of 10,296 megawatts (MW). At that moment, wind supplied almost 29% of total electricity load, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid's operator. The average wind production in that hour was 10,120 MW. The new wind record surpassed two highs reached in the previous week, while the record prior to March was 9,674 MW set in May 2013.
March's wind power record will likely be surpassed in the near future as wind capacity continues to be added in the state. Texas currently has more than 12,000 MW of operational utility-scale wind capacity (see graph below)—about one-fifth of the total wind capacity in the United States. According to preliminary data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly, Texas added 150 MW of utility-scale wind capacity in 2013, less than one-tenth of the nearly 1,600 MW added in the previous year.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, EIA-860 Annual Electric Generator Report and the Note: 2000-2012 data from the EIA-860. Preliminary 2013 data from the Electric Power Monthly. Data include facilities with a net summer capacity of 1 MW and above only. Data also include wind capacity located in the small areas of Texas lying outside the ERCOT grid footprint.
The significant slowdown in wind additions in 2013 mirrored the national trend, which reflected the lapse of the federal production tax credit (PTC) at the end of 2012. That lapse encouraged those with facilities under construction to complete them and begin operation before the end of 2012 in order to receive the tax credits (which are for all generation during the first 10 years of operation). The subsequent one-year extension in early 2013 required only that plants commence construction in 2013 to be eligible to receive the tax credits after the start of operations at a later date. This modification of eligibility requirements led to many wind projects beginning construction in 2013 with expected completion dates in 2014-15. Trade association reports estimate that there were more than 7,000 MW of wind projects under construction in Texas at the end of 2013; however, exactly how much of that capacity will actually be completed and by when remains to be seen.
The recent wind output records are a result not only of the growing amount of wind capacity in the state, but also of the successful completion of a major state-directed transmission expansion program, the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) program, which was specifically designed to allow wind power to reach a wider swath of the ERCOT grid and reduce grid congestion-related curtailments of wind power. Tomorrow's article will discuss wind curtailments and the CREZ program in more detail.