GRN Reports

wind farm and cattleWind power in Texas hit its highest point ever, contributing 10,296 megawatts to the grid at about 9 p.m. this past Wednesday night, which meant wind was providing nearly 40 percent of the electricity on the grid at that time, according tot the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

High winds in West Texas combined with more wind farms connecting to the grid, which is being expanded and upgraded to bring more wind power to the state’s urban centers, contributed to the new high point, ERCOT and the American Wind Energy Association reported. The previous record of around 9,600 megawatts provided about 35 percent of electricity demand.

“ERCOT’s record is now the highest megawatt wind output for any U.S. power system,” AWEA noted on its Into The Wind blog.

Wind was also in the news this week when a new study determined it is price competitive with natural gas, once carbon pollution is factored in. The study by the University of California, Irvine; UC – Berkeley and Syracuse University found that after adjusting for the environmental impact of natural gas and the anticipated rise in its cost over the next 20 years, the cost of wind was only about 1/3 of a penny more per kWh.

“The true cost of electricity from wind power and natural gas are effectively indistinguishable, yet because the cost of carbon emissions is not included in the market price of gas, wind has not been a competitive form of energy use in most of the United States without government pricing support,” said Jason Dedrick, associate professor at Syracuse’s School of Information Studies and collaborator on the study.

The analysis also noted that current estimates for natural gas and wind compare the two without taking into consideration the anticipated price stability of wind, as well as the societal (environmental) costs of natural gas.

“Current national-average estimates from the DOE are 8.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for wind and 6.6 cents for gas-fired energy—making gas appear as a much cheaper alternative, explained Greg Linden, a senior research associate at the University of California, Berkeley. “Incorporating the new metric into the analysis” shows that the Production Tax Credit for wind can actually compensate “for a market failure to price the future cost to society of carbon emissions.”

In this way, the study sought to show that the much-debated PTC credit for wind, often derided by Congressional budget hawks as a subsidy, could be viewed as an equalizer, standing in to “make the market reflect the true costs of energy.”