On Wednesday, March 27th, the largest state in the contiguous United States got almost one-third of its electricity by harnessing the wind. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the bulk of the Lone Star State's power grid, a record-breaking 10,296 MW of electricity was whipped up by wind turbines. That's enough to provide 29 percent of the state's power, and to keep the lights on in over 5 million homes.
ERCOT notes in a statement issued today that "The new record beats the previous record set earlier this month by more than 600 MW, and the American Wind Energy Association reports it was a record for any US power system."
The landmark is further evidence of one of the nation's unlikeliest energy success stories. Conservative politicians have a renowned aversion to clean energy (though Republican voters favor it overwhelmingly), and Texas is still deep red. Yet wind farms are cropping up in there faster than almost anywhere else. ERCOT points out as much, as it boasts of the sector's recent growth:
Texas continues to have more wind power capacity than any other state. The ERCOT region has more than 11,000 MW of commercial wind power capacity, with nearly 8,000 MW of new projects in development and more than 26,700 MW under study. Wind power comprised 9.9 percent of the total energy used in the ERCOT region in 2013, compared to 9.2 percent in 2012.
Texas has more wind power than any other state, by a huge margin. And it keeps blowing through these major milestones just about every year. There was some trepidation that Texas's wind industry would slow as fracking rose in prominence and a key tax credit faced expiration, but hallmarks like this underline some very strong fundamentals. Wind power is ideal for Texas, where there's a lot of open land, a lot of breezy plains—and a rising demand for electricity, as the state's population continues to grow.
So the wind boom has carried on. After new power lines are installed to better route the power from rural areas to more populated cities, Texas will be the 5th-largest wind power producer in the world. Most importantly, perhaps, is that there's now a thriving industry with real economic and political power—citizens and politicians alike appreciate, work, and profit from the wind sector, so they'll be more willing to fight for it.
Clean energy has become an institution in the most un-hippie state in the country, and there's reason to believe it will not only stay that way—but continue its trajectory and even pass on its influence to the rest of the nation. If Texas can get a third of its energy from the wind, why not Kansas, Wyoming, Alaska? With installation and generation continuing apace, and promising new high-flying technologies rolling out, the future of wind power is looking stronger than ever.
[Update: This post has been updated to clarify that it's the nation's conservative politicians who routinely oppose clean energy, not voters.]