News roundup: The story of Texas wind, floating turbines bring new opportunities, and renewables win in February

Before the weekend break, we have stories highlighting Texas’s impressive impact on the history of the wind industry, new floating turbine technologies opening doors for offshore innovation, and renewable generation increasing 30 percent last week.

Texas is the undisputed king in U.S. wind power, and Mike Jacobs at the Union of Concerned Scientists is following the Lone Star State’s rise to wind glory:

  • Press reports of Texas completing new transmission lines for wind describe an energy boom with a difference — this is carbon-free wind energy.  The grid operator in Texas, ERCOT, says agreements are already done for 7,500 MW of new wind power, most of which will be using the new transmission lines by 2016. That will put installed Texas wind around 20,000 MW. There are 15 U.S. states with 1,000 MW or more, but Texas wind is already twice as big as the next largest wind states,  California and Iowa.
  • It all started with the Texas RPS law, signed by Governor Bush. Once Texans found wind could be profitable, the legislature raised the RPS and set out this transmission planning-and-building requirement known as CREZ. Eight years in the making, from designing the transmission to completion.
  • During these eight years, many advocacy efforts tried to describe how to duplicate this in other regions. Texas does all its electricity policy and planning in one city, Austin. There isn’t any other state involved, and the electricity sector is largely exempt from Federal energy market rules. These unique circumstances have not been available to another transmission-for-wind effort.

New floating wind turbine technology will allow wind farms to be placed as far as 20 miles offshore, with big potential savings:

  • There’s roughly enough wind off the West Coast to power all of the U.S. Alla Weinstein is determined to harness as much of it as she can. Weinstein is chief executive officer of Principle Power, a Seattle company that has developed a ballast system that buoys wind turbines so they don’t have to be bolted to the seabed. On Feb. 5, Principle received approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior to build a 30-megawatt floating wind farm off Oregon’s coast, the nation’s first in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Principle installed a floating 2Mw turbine built by Vestas (VWS:GR) about 3 miles off the coast of Portugal in 2011, a project that may reach a total capacity of 150Mw. The company is also pursuing deals in the U.K. and Asia. The Oregon wind farm, with an estimated cost of $200 million, will consist of five 6MwSiemens (SI) turbines about 15 miles off the coast and is expected to be hooked up to the grid via an underwater cable in 2017.
  • Walt Musial, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, estimates that there’s more than 900 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity along the Pacific coast of the U.S. That’s about the same as the country’s installed power capacity. 

National generation last week turned into a success story for renewable power, where wind stepped up to make an important contribution to the grid:

  • Renewable generation across the U.S. was up 30% for the week ending Feb. 20, according to recent estimates from Genscape's Generation Fuel Monitor Report. The company says the total weekly generation of 11,982 GWh was the second-highest weekly number in the past five years.
  • Genscape notes that wind generation in the Midwest appears to be a significant driver of the increase week-over-week. According to the report, wind power in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator region was up 31% (+220 GWh), Southwest Power Pool wind was up 117% (+299 GWh), and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) wind was up 129% (+469 GWh). Genscape’s monitored hydro generation in the Pacific Northwest was also up 39% (612 GWh), despite ongoing drought conditions.

Be sure to check out this week’s other news roundups:


Mike Jacobs, “How Texas Made Wind Energy a Real Player”. Union of Concerned Scientists. 27 February 2014.

Justin Doom, “Floating Wind Farms Venture Farther Out to Sea.” Bloomberg Businessweek. 27 February 2014.

Staff, “Wind Power Helps Boost U.S. Renewable Generation Up 30% Last Week.” North American Windpower. 27 February 2014.

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