By MICHAEL E. WEBBER and ERIN M. KEYS
VOL. 23, NO. 9
ho LLy Por T
The nation’s leader in wind power
turns its face to the sun.
aS THE NATION’S LARGEST energy consumer, leading CO2 emitter and stronghold of the traditional energy
industry, Texas might seem an unlikely candidate to be the world’s solar market leader. But
with an expansive solar resource, recent success
with wind power, extensive natural gas installations, competitive electricity markets and a
commitment to build new transmission capacity, Texas might become just that.
officials in Texas issue statements that denounce
proposed federal carbon legislation as an affront
to the state’s growing economy. They warn that a
carbon-constrained economy will lead to higher
electric bills. Our governor has also voiced strong
opposition to the planned federal mandate on
increasing production of biofuels.
Michael E. Webber is associate director of the Center
for International Energy & Environmental Policy, co-director of the Clean Energy Incubator and assistant
professor of mechanical engineering at the University
of Texas at Austin (see webberenergygroup.com). Erin
Keys is a 2008 graduate of the Cockrell School of Engineering who currently works in the energy industry.
Wind Power Proves successful
Because of that “old energy” reputation,
many overlook the state’s leadership in the
green revolution. Since 2006, when it overtook
California, Texas has installed more wind capacity than any other state. At the end of April,
Texas had more wind power installed than the
next five leading states combined (Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington and Oregon).
The startling pace of installation over the last
decade (see Figure 1, below) has meant that
enough wind turbines to generate 9,000 megawatts (MW) of power should be online by the
end of this year. If we once again consider Texas
Leading and Lagging
With Dirty energy
Texas is the top energy consumer in the United States. With only 8 percent of the nation’s
population, we consume about 12 percent of
its energy. We lead the nation in consumption
of oil, natural gas, coal and electricity. In the
process, our per capita energy consumption is
about 60 percent higher than that of the average American. In addition, our carbon emissions
represent about 2. 5 percent of the global total.
If Texas were a nation, we would be
seventh on the list of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters, ahead of Canada
and barely behind Germany, which
has three times our population.
Texas is also the nation’s largest
energy producer. We pull more than
1 million barrels of oil and 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas out of
the ground each day, accounting for
about one-fifth of national oil production and more than one-fourth of
the nation’s natural gas production.
At nearly 4. 8 million barrels per day
of crude oil processing capability,
the state’s refining capacity makes up
more than one-fourth of the United
States’ total refining capacity.
Texas still has a reputation for
being backward on environmental
issues. In particular, leading public
Figure 1: STEEP GROWTH FOR TEXAS WIND POWER
Installed wind power capacity has grown quickly over the last decade, from
approximately 175 megawatts (MW) in 1999 to more than 9,000 MW in 2009.
If the pace of solar power installations follo ws a similar trajectory over the next
decade, then Texas will become one of the world’s hottest solar markets.
Sources: Keys & Webber, Texas PUC
The Desert Sky Wind Farm in Pecos County,
Texas, has more than 100 1.5-megawatt wind
turbines. Texas has installed more wind capacity
than any other state.