Texas sets wind power record as coastal wind grows
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Texas set a new record for wind-power output earlier this month as coastal wind farms start to play a bigger role in supplying electricity to the state, the grid operator said in a report.
The amount of electricity produced from wind on the afternoon of October 7 set a record at 7,400 megawatts, more than 78 percent of the 9,400 MW of installed wind capacity in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
That's well above the average 30 to 40 percent of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce.
Texas leads the nation in carbon-free electric capacity from wind turbines but wind at the lion's share of the state's wind farms in West Texas, built by NextEra Energy and others, generally blows the strongest during the evening hours and in the spring and fall months when power demand is low.
Recent wind-farm additions, now totaling more than 1,200 MW, or 13 percent, have been built closer to the Texas coast, south of Corpus Christi where wind patterns differ from West Texas.
About 15 percent of the record 7,400 MW produced October 7, came from the coastal wind farms, ERCOT said.
Grid officials credited output from the wind fleet for helping meet record power demand this summer during a protracted heat wave and drought.
At the time of the latest record, wind generation accounted for 15.2 percent of the power demand of 48,733 MW, the grid agency said.
ERCOT expects to have 9,700 MW of wind generation by year end, Kent Saathoff, ERCOT vice president, told the board Tuesday.
Duke Energy's renewable unit said last month it will complete two phases, totaling 402 MW, at its coastal wind project in Willacy County, Texas, by late 2012.
ERCOT's previous wind record was 7,355 MW of wind set June 19, accounting for 14 percent of demand.
Wind farms expanded rapidly in Texas until 2009 when wind capacity began to overwhelm the existing transmission capacity available to move the power from remote areas of West Texas to large cities - such as Dallas and San Antonio - that consume the power.
A number of wind projects were canceled, but more than 1,500 MW is in development for 2012, according to ERCOT.
Texas is working to add more than 2,300 miles of high-voltage transmission in a $6.5 billion plan to expand the grid by late 2013 to accommodate wind-farm growth of up to 18,500 MW.
While current wind-farm construction has slowed to wait for the transmission grid to catch up, developers are studying the addition of nearly 34,000 MW of wind in Texas, down from 39,000 MW a few months ago.
Wind represents nearly 58 percent of all new generation seen in planning stages over the next few years, according to a monthly ERCOT report.
(Reporting by Eileen O'Grady;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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