Texas Wind Energy

Jason Ting
December 7, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2015


Fig. 1: Brazos Wind Ranch, located in Borden and Scurry counties in Texas. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Texas is a state that is notorious for its prominent oil and gas industry, but Texas is also acclaimed for the vast amount of wind-generated power it produces. In the United States and Texas in particular, wind energy has been rapidly expanding as a power sector with immense amount of benefits as a clean energy resource since it is renewable, widely distributed, reduces harmful Carbon Dioxide emissions when operating, and can lower wholesale energy cost. However, some of the potential savings in wind energy may be outweighed by other necessary expenses. This paper provides an overview of how Texas is using wind energy and some of the challenges that using wind energy entails.

Texas Wind Energy Benefits

In the United States, Texas ranks first amongst the states for wind generation. There are over 9000 operational wind turbines in Texas, such as the Wind Ranch in Brazos shown in Fig 1., with over 100 wind projects in development. These installed wind turbines have the capacity to produce over 14000 MW, when in 2014 wind energy provided 9% of all in-state electricity production, which is tantamount to powering 3.6 million homes. [1]

Wind power does not have a fuel cost, meaning that wind generators can potentially bid into the wholesale spot energy market at low prices. Bidding at low prices in conjunction with the federal tax credits, wind generators can bid their energy into the spot market at negative prices. [2] Because of this, wind energy in Texas can reduce the overall spot market prices for electricity in Texas.


Development of transmission for turbines has cost billions more than expected. The organization that operates the state power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) approximated the cost of transmission lines to serve the state's growing wind fleet at $4.9 billion. However, the cost ended up being $6.79 billion, a 38% increase due the power lines needing to follow roads to minimize intrusion, which increased the estimated total amount of power line needed, along with inflation and other factors. [3]

Wind turbine threatens some bird and bat populations. For example, the Spanish Ornithological Society in Madrid estimates that Spain's 18,000 wind turbines may be killing 6 million to 18 million birds and bats annually. [4] Although the wind farms kill fewer birds than most other hazards, they pose a disproportional effect to endangered species in the area, such as the golden eagles. One solution to combat killing birds is to replace small, aging turbines with fewer large ones, which is what Buena Vista did which resulted in a drop of 50% of golden eagle fatality. To combat the death of bats, Renewables Casselman Wind Project in Pennsylvania increased the turbine threshold from 4.0 meters per second to 5.5 meters per second, since bats don't fly as frequently in high winds. This resulted in a 93% reduction of bat deaths. Some wind farms use radars to detect flocks of birds, but researchers question the effectiveness of it.

© Jason Ting. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. Blum, "Texas Wind Power Growth Could Slow After 2016," Houston Chronicle, 10 Oct 15.

[2] D Gross, "The Night They Drove the Price of Electricity Down," Slate, 18 Sep 18.

[3] K Galbraith, "Cost of Texas Wind Transmission Lines Nears $7 Billion," The Texas Tribune, 24 Aug 11.

[4] M. Subramanian, "The Trouble With Turbines: An Ill Wind," Nature 486, 310 (2012).