Texas’ wind turbines generated more electricity in the first half of 2019 than its coal plants, according to data released by Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The state received 22% of its electricity from wind power, compared to 21% from coal, the first time a renewable energy source has edged out the pollution-heavy fossil fuel. Texas still gets 38% of its electricity from natural gas, which has been widely used in recent years as a cheaper alternative to coal.
Although Texas is known as the home of the oil industry, the state was an early adopter of wind power and remains the country’s leading producer of wind energy. More than 2,300 watts of wind power were added in Texas in 2017, nearly three times what Oklahoma, the second-leading state, added, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The state generated 22,000 watts of electricity from wind power in 2017, three times the amount produced in Oklahoma over the same period. Overall, the US generates less than 3% of its electricity from wind power in 2017, meaning Texas is way ahead of the curve.
Texas excels in the market because of its geography and early political support. Open expanses of land are now bustling with wind turbines. In the mid-2000s, state lawmakers boosted the nascent industry by approving the construction of transmission lines that carry energy from remote wind production areas to the energy grid. The lines then attracted other towns and cities in the state to invest in wind projects because the key infrastructure was already in place.
The state’s wind sector shows no sign of slowing down, either. Of the estimated 10.9 gigawatts of wind power expected to come online in 2019, Texas, Iowa, and Oklahoma will account for more than half of the activity.
As wind becomes a more viable energy source, it’s gaining a broad constituency of support in the state. There are an estimated 233,000 people working in the wind, solar, and energy efficiency fields in the state.
“Wind power has become an invaluable tool in the rural economic development space in Texas,” Scott Dunaway, a wind energy advocate with Powering Texas, told the Caller.
“[The industry is] creating jobs and generating revenue streams for rural Texans that strengthen our communities and provide needed economic opportunities for landowners and local school districts,” he added.
Although Texas has become a leader in renewable energy, it hasn’t developed a climate change adaptation and mitigation plan in line with the Paris climate agreement.
Failing to take climate change seriously could be a problem for the state in the future. Already, Texas is facing extreme weather and droughts that endanger people — especially its most vulnerable populations — and threaten its economy.