Wind power in Texas

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The 781 MW Roscoe Wind Farm at sunrise.

Wind power in Texas consists of many wind farms with a total installed nameplate capacity of 12,212 MW[1] from over 40 different projects. Texas produces the most wind power of any U.S. state.[1] The wind boom in Texas was assisted by expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, use of designated Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, expedited transmission construction, and the necessary Public Utility Commission rule-making.[2] Wind power accounted for 8.3% of the electricity generated in Texas during 2013.[3]

The Roscoe Wind Farm (781 MW) is the state's largest wind farm. Other large wind farms in Texas include: Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, Sherbino Wind Farm, Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm, Sweetwater Wind Farm, Buffalo Gap Wind Farm, King Mountain Wind Farm, Desert Sky Wind Farm, Wildorado Wind Ranch, and the Brazos Wind Farm.


Part of the Desert Sky Wind Farm off I-10
Wind turbines on the windswept high plains of the Llano Estacado, Lubbock County, Texas.
Vestas V47-660kW wind turbine at American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, Texas

Wind power has a long history in Texas. West Texas State University began wind energy research in 1970 and led to the formation of the Alternative Energy Institute (AEI) in 1977. AEI has been a major information resource about wind energy for Texas.[4]

The expanding wind power market will help Texas meet its 2015 renewable energy goal of 5,000 new megawatts of power from renewable sources.[5]

The table below lists the larger wind farms in Texas, currently operating or under construction. Wind farms which are smaller than 140 MW in capacity are not shown.

Summary table: Large wind farms in Texas[6][7]
Wind farm Installed
capacity (MW)
Brazos Wind Ranch (Green Mt. Energy Wind Farm) 160 Mitsubishi Scurry/ Borden
Buffalo Gap Wind Farm 523 Vestas Taylor/ Nolan
Bull Creek Wind Farm 180 Mitsubishi Borden
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm 662 GE Energy/ Siemens Sterling/ Coke
Desert Sky Wind Farm 160 GE Energy Pecos
Goat Mountain Wind Ranch 150 Coke/ Sterling
Gulf Wind Farm 283[8] Mitsubishi Kenedy
Hackberry Wind Project 165 Siemens Shackelford
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 735 GE Energy/ Siemens Taylor/ Nolan
Inadale Wind Farm 197 Mitsubishi Scurry/ Nolan
King Mountain Wind Farm 278.5 Bonus/ GE Energy Upton
Langford Wind Farm 150 GE Energy Tom Green/ Schleicher/ Irion
Lone Star Wind Farm 400 Gamesa Shackelford/ Callahan
McAdoo Wind Farm 150 GE Energy Dickens
Notrees Windpower 150 Duke Energy Ector/ Winkler
Panther Creek Wind Farm 458 GE Energy Howard/ ...
Papalote Creek Wind Farm 380[9] Siemens San Patricio
Peñascal Wind Farm 404 Mitsubishi Kenedy
Pyron Wind Farm 249 GE Energy Scurry/ Fisher/ Nolan
Roscoe Wind Farm 781[10] Mitsubishi Nolan
Sherbino Wind Farm 300[11] Vestas Pecos
Sweetwater Wind Farm 585 GE Energy/ Siemens/ Mitsubishi Nolan
Trent Wind Farm 150 GE Energy Taylor
Turkey Track Energy Center 169.5 Nolan/ Coke/ Runnels
Wildorado Wind Ranch 161 Siemens Oldham/ Potter/ Randall
Woodward Mountain Wind Ranch 159 Vestas Pecos
A wind turbine blade on I-35 near Elm Mott, an increasingly common sight in Texas

Several forces are driving the growth of wind power in Texas: the wind resource in many areas of the state is very large, large projects are relatively easy to site, and the market price for electricity is set by natural gas prices and so is relatively high.[12] The broad scope and geographical extent of wind farms in Texas is considerable:

Wind resource areas lie in the Texas Panhandle, along the Gulf coast south of Galveston, and in the mountain passes and ridge tops of the Trans-Pecos. There are still 80,000 windmills operating in Texas, used to pump water.[13]

Texas farmers may lease their land to wind developers for either a set rental per turbine or for a small percentage of gross annual revenue from the project.[14] This offers farmers a fresh revenue stream without impacting traditional farming and grazing practices. Although leasing arrangements vary widely, the U. S. Government Accountability Office reported in 2004 that a farmer who leases land to a wind project developer can generally obtain royalties of $3,000 to $5,000 per turbine per year in lease payments. These figures are rising as larger wind turbines are being produced and installed.[15]

The wind power industry is also creating thousands of jobs for communities and for the state.[16] Increases in the deployment of wind technology and the various aspects of producing electricity from wind power may help to offset lost jobs in Texas if oil drilling activity on land and in the Gulf of Mexico subsides.[17]

Sabotage and industrial accidents can be potential threats to the large, centrally located, power plants that provide most of Texas’ electricity. Should one of these plants be damaged, repairs could take more than a year, possibly creating power shortages on a scale that Texans have never experienced before. Coal trains and gas pipelines are also vulnerable to disruption. However, wind power plants are quickly installed and repaired. The modular structure of a wind farm also means that if one turbine is damaged, the overall output of the plant is not significantly affected.[18]

Wind is a highly variable resource. With proper understanding it can be incorporated into an electric utility's generation mix. When providing for the generating capacity to meet the peak demand in summer, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the Texas power grid, counts wind at 8.7% of nameplate capacity.[19] Many areas in Texas have wind conditions allowing for development of wind power generation. The number of commercially attractive sites will expand as wind turbine technology improves and development costs continue to drop.[20]

The wind power boom in Texas has outstripped the capacity of the transmission systems in place, and predicted shortages in transmission capability may dampen the growth of the industry in years to come. It is said that until now, the growth in wind power "piggybacked" on existing lines, but has now almost depleted spare capacity.[21] As a result, in winter the west Texas grid often has such a local surplus of power that the price falls below zero.[22][23] According to Michael Goggin, electric industry analyst at AWEA, "Prices fell below US −$30/MWh (megawatt-hour) on 63% of days during the first half of 2008, compared to 10% for the same period in 2007 and 5% in 2006."[24] In July 2008, utility officials gave preliminary approval to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from West Texas to urban areas such as Dallas. The new plan would be the biggest investment in renewable energy in U.S. history, and would add transmission lines capable of moving about 18,000 megawatts.[25]

Location map[edit]

Large Wind power projects in Texas
  Green pog.svg Operating
  Orange pog.svg Under construction
  Blue pog.svg Proposed

Renewable Portfolio Standard[edit]

The Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard was originally created by Senate Bill 7 in 1999, as part of new laws that restructured the electricity industry. The Texas RPS mandated that utility companies jointly create 2000 new MWs of renewable energy by 2009 based on their market share. In 2005, Senate Bill 20, increased the state’s RPS requirement to 5,880 MW by 2015, of which, 500 MW must come from non-wind resources. The bill set a goal of 10,000 MW of renewable energy capacity for 2025, which was achieved 15 years early, in 2010.[26]

According to, "In 1999 the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) adopted rules for the state's Renewable Energy Mandate, establishing a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), a renewable-energy credit (REC) trading program, and renewable-energy purchase requirements for competitive retailers in Texas. The 1999 standard called for 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewables to be installed in Texas by 2009, in addition to the 880 MW of existing renewables generation at the time. In August 2005, S.B. 20 increased the renewable-energy mandate to 5,880 MW by 2015 (about 5% of the state's electricity demand), including a target of 500 MW of renewable-energy capacity from resources other than wind. Wind accounts for nearly all of the current renewable-energy generation in Texas. The 2005 legislation also set a target of reaching 10,000 MW of renewable energy capacity by 2025.[26]

The schedule of renewable energy capacity required and the corresponding compliance dates are as follows:

2,280 MW by 1/1/2007
3,272 MW by 1/1/2009
4,264 MW by 1/1/2011
5,256 MW by 1/1/2013
5,880 MW by 1/1/2015

Qualifying renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave or tidal energy, biomass, or biomass-based waste products, including landfill gas. Qualifying systems are those installed after September 1999. The RPS applies to all investor-owned utilities. Municipal and cooperative utilities may voluntarily elect to offer customer choice.

The PUCT established a renewable-energy credit (REC) trading program that began in July 2001 and will continue through 2019. Under PUCT rules, one REC represents one megawatt-hour (MWh) of qualified renewable energy that is generated and metered in Texas. A capacity conversion factor (CCF) is used to convert MW goals into MWh requirements for each retailer in the competitive market. The CCF was originally administratively set at 35% for the first two compliance years, but is now based on the actual performance of the resources in the REC-trading program for the previous two years. For the 2010 and 2011 the CCF will be 30.5%." Each retailer in Texas is allocated a share of the mandate based on that retailer’s pro rata share of statewide retail energy sales. The program administrator maintains a REC account for program participants to track the production, sale, transfer, purchase, and retirement of RECs. Credits can be banked for three years, and all renewable additions have a minimum of 10 years of credits to recover over-market costs. An administrative penalty of $50 per MWh has been established for providers that do not meet the RPS requirements.

Environmental Benefits of Wind-Generated Electricity in Texas[edit]

In his paper, “Measuring the Environmental Benefits of Wind-Generated Electricity,” Joseph Cullen, Assistant Professor of Economics at Washington University, investigates the capacity of wind- powered electric generators to offset emissions produced by fossil-fuel electric generators in ERCOT, Texas’ main power grid.[27]

Cullen’s paper focuses on the cost-effectiveness of wind electricity generators. Wind turbines are subsidized in Texas through the state-level Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). While RPS credits range anywhere from $5/MWh to $50/MWh of electricity produced, depending on the state, Production Tax Credits are generally fixed at $20/MWh. [28] Cullen cites the availability of subsidies as the driving reason for installation of wind turbines in Texas over the past several decades, and illustrates that each year after RTC expired, annual installments of wind turbines nearly dropped to zero.[29]

Wind energy has high fixed costs. A 1 MWh wind turbine costs about $1 million to build and install, but has marginal costs close to zero. Because fuel costs are zero, the maintenance costs are the largest marginal costs.[30] According to the Department of Energy, wind energy has decreased in cost by more than 90% since the 1980s due to technological advancements.[31]

Joseph Cullen’s research questions ask: do the environmental benefits of using wind-powered electric generators outweigh the costs of subsidizing them? Is the cost of subsidizing wind power less than the cost of the emissions from traditional fossil-fuel electric generators in Texas?[32]


For the analysis, Cullen dropped generators that appear infrequently in the data. In total, 55 generators are excluded from the sample. The remaining 332 generators are left as potential substitutes for wind power. Collectively, they account for more than 99% of both capacity and production in ERCOT.

Electricity market[edit]

The ERCOT grid operates as a quasi-deregulated electricity market which serves most of the state of Texas. Unlike many regulated and even deregulated markets, companies in this market are vertically separated. There are no vertically integrated firms that control generating, transmitting, and retailing resources.

Power system basics[edit]

Markets for electricity are a bit unusual in that the production, transmission and consumption of electricity occur at almost the same instant. It is important for the injection of electricity into the grid by generators, and the withdrawal of power by consumers, to be nearly perfectly balanced at every point in time. An imbalance in the production and consumption of electricity leads to changes in voltage on the power grid, with adverse consequences.

Consumer demand[edit]

The sale of electricity to end-users is deregulated in Texas. Multiple retailers compete to sell electricity to the same consumers at a given location. As in most electricity markets, consumers in ERCOT do not respond directly to wholesale price signals. For periods where consumers face a constant price for electricity, swings in demand for electricity are driven by exogenous forces, such as temperature variation and diurnal patterns of human activity, which are not influenced by prices in the wholesale markets. This means that, conditional on a constant pricing mechanism, demand can be treated as function of exogenous variables.


Firm production[edit]

On the ERCOT grid, incentives to generate electricity are driven by wholesale prices for electricity. Firms producing electricity generate revenue in one of two ways. Either they sell power through bilateral contracts or they sell their power and capacity in markets administered by ERCOT. The larger of these two, in terms of electricity sales, is the bilateral market where almost 95% of power generated for the grid is transacted. The primary purpose of the markets administered by ERCOT is to ensure the reliability of the grid. The largest of the ERCOT administered markets is the Balancing Market, a real-time auction that which helps to balance supply and demand. The Balancing Market accounts for almost 5% of electricity sales.


With estimated coefficients from each regression Cullen calculated the marginal substitution parameters for wind power. If the point estimates of the marginal offsets are applied to total wind production over the two year sample period they would imply that approximately 5 million tons of CO2, 900 tons of SO2, and 5,000 tons of NOx were offset by wind production. Although wind power accounted for about 2 percent of total electricity production, the emissions offset by wind represent significantly less than 2 percent of the total emissions over the period.

Valuing emission offsets[edit]

Valuing offsets allows for comparison between the environmental benefits of the subsidy program and the costs of subsidizing wind-generated power production. Two important factors emerge when calculating the appropriate value of offset emissions: marginal damage costs and the regulation status of the pollutants. For unregulated pollutants, such as C02, average marginal damage costs are well suited for valuing offset emissions. Valuing emissions for regulated pollutants, such as S02 and NOx, is a more nuanced process. In the specific grid that Cullen is studying S02 emissions are universally regulated. This, along with negligible estimated offsets, implies that no benefits will accrue from SO2 offsets in Texas. To value offsets of NOx we can look the price of NOx permits in other regions. These permit prices may serve as a proxy for marginal damage costs. However, cap-and-trade regulations are likely to be introduced in areas of high damage costs so the permit price may overstate the true marginal damage costs in the region. Cullen, instead, uses estimates from Muller and Mendelsohn (2011)[33] which use an integrated assessment model to calculated spatially differentiated marginal costs. Cullen presents calculated offset values per MWh for the named pollutants in the table below.

Offset Values ($/MWh of wind energy)[edit]

Low Middle High
NOx $0.04 $0.17 $0.83
CO2 $2.37 $9.94 $16.57

Now that values have been calculated for offset emissions we can make a comparison to per MWh cost of wind subsidies. For the first ten years of operation wind farms receive federal PTC subsidies of $20/MWh. Wind farms also receive a renewable energy credit from the state of Texas for each MWh of power produced. These credits are valued around $10/MWh. In Texas wind energy receives subsidies valued at $30/ MWh for the first ten years and $20/MWh after that point.


Assuming that no wind capacity can be installed without federal and state subsidies, the emissions benefits of wind power fail to exceed the $20/MWh subsidy even for the higher marginal damage cost estimates. In other words, the cost of subsidizing wind production would be justified by potential benefit only for significant marginal damage costs of CO2.

Future developments[edit]

An energy storage system is being developed for West Texas. The system allows excess wind energy to be stored, making wind energy more predictable and less variable.[34] This 36 MW battery facility became operational in December 2012.[35]

The development of the Tres Amigas HVDC link to the Western grid and the Eastern grid will allow more flexibility in importing and exporting power to and from Texas.[36]

A 300 MW offshore wind farm is planned for Galveston, and 2,100 MW for the Gulf Coast of Texas.[37] Making turbines that are able to yaw quickly will make them more likely to be able to survive a hurricane.[38]


Texas Wind Generation (GWh, Million kWh)
Year Total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2009 20,026 1,648 1,620 1,830 1,993 1,509 1,585 1,341 1,433 1,218 1,933 1,802 1,780
2010 26,251 1,948 1,650 2,643 2,721 2,335 2,553 1,878 1,682 1,589 1,830 2,765 2,595
2011 30,051 2,067 2,506 2,650 3,035 3,047 3,311 2,053 1,961 1,694 2,671 2,832 2,406
2012 31,556 3,068 2,603 3,131 2,940 2,837 2,613 2,105 1,821 2,154 2,717 2,647 3,157
2013 35,874 2,601 2,977 3,802 3,760 3,966 3,386 2,406 2,133 2,023 3,093 3,057 2,670


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c AWEA Third Quarter 2012 Market Report
  2. ^ Lauren Glickman (25 August 2011). "Stetsons Off to Gov. Perry on Wind Power". Renewable Energy World. 
  3. ^ "American wind power reacheds major power generation milestones in 2013". AWEA. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Alternative Energy Institute". 
  5. ^ Airtricity Finalizes 209-MW Wind Project in Texas Renewable Energy Access, 16 May 2007.
  6. ^ AWEA 3rd Quarter 2008 Market Report
  7. ^ Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association. Texas operational wind plants
  8. ^ "Babcock & Brown Gulf Coast wind project clears legal hurdle". Power Engineering International. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  9. ^ 196 Wind Turbines Cranking Out Power
  10. ^ E.ON Delivers 335-MW of Wind in Texas
  11. ^ Sherbino II Online
  12. ^ Wind Riding Favorable Policy Breeze Toward Record Year Renewable Energy Access, 5 June 2007.
  13. ^ Roping the Breezes
  14. ^ Krauss, Clifford (2008-02-23). "Move Over, Oil, There’s Money in Texas Wind". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  15. ^ State Energy Conservation Office. The New Cash Crop
  16. ^ Block, Ben (2008-07-24). "In Windy West Texas, An Economic Boom". Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  17. ^ Texas wind energy
  18. ^ SEED Coalition and Public Citizen’s Texas office (2002). Renewable Resources: The New Texas Energy Powerhouse p. 11.
  19. ^ "ERCOT Expects Adequate Power Supplies for Summer". Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). May 16, 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-28. 
  20. ^ "Texas Wind Energy Resources". 
  21. ^ USA Today. Lines lacking to transmit wind energy.
  22. ^ Giberson, Michael (28 January 2009). "UPDATED: Negative power prices in the West region of ERCOT in 2008". Knowledge Problem. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  23. ^ Wang, Ucilia (10 December 2008). "Texas Wind Farms Paying People to Take Power". Greentech Media. Retrieved 2012-11-23. 
  24. ^ Goggin, Michael (19 September 2008). "Curtailment, Negative Prices Symptomatic of Inadequate Transmission". Renewable Energy World. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  25. ^ Texas Will Spend Billions on Transmission of Wind Power
  26. ^ a b Amory B. Lovins (2011). Reinventing Fire. p. 218. 
  27. ^ Cullen, Joseph. 2013. "Measuring the Environmental Benefits of Wind-Generated Electricity."American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 5(4): 107-33
  28. ^ Wiser, Ryan, and Galen Barbose. 2008. Renewables Portfolio Standards in the United States: A Status Report with Data Through 2007. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy
  29. ^ American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). 2008. Factsheets.
  30. ^ Wiser, Ryan, and Galen Barbose. 2008. Renewables Portfolio Standards in the United States: A Status Report with Data Through 2007. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Berkeley.
  31. ^ Department of Energy, “Revolution Now: The Future Arrives for Four Clean Energy Technologies.” September 17, 2013.
  32. ^ Cullen, Joseph. 2013. "Measuring the Environmental Benefits of Wind-Generated Electricity."American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 5(4): 107-33
  33. ^ Muller, Nicholas Z., and Robert Mendelsohn. 2011. “Efficient Pollution Regulation: Getting the Prices Right.” American Economic review 99 (5): 1714–39.
  34. ^ West Texas Project Could Change Future of Wind Power
  35. ^ Duke Energy. "Duke Energy Renewables completes Notrees Battery Storage Project in Texas; North America's largest battery storage project at a wind farm". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2/1/2013. 
  36. ^ Tres Amigas
  37. ^ Texas Offshore Wind Project Eyes Test Turbine by End of 2011
  38. ^ Wind Turbines Can Be Strengthened Against Hurricanes
  39. ^ "Generation Annual". U.S. Department of Energy. July 10, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2012. 
  40. ^ EIA (July 23, 2013). "Electric Power Monthly Table 1.17.A.". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  41. ^ EIA (July 23, 2013). "Electric Power Monthly Table 1.17.B.". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 

External links[edit]