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The United States is heterogeneous in its renewable energy deployment, partially due to federalism, the jurisdictional split of federal and state government over land use. Texas, an energy production leader known for oil and gas production, is also recognized as the wind energy leader in the United States. Texas has over 20,000 MW of installed wind energy. A number of factors, including centralized decision-making, have led to Texas’s success in harnessing wind. But the Texas experiment does not easily translate to other states.
Nevertheless, other states like Colorado have similarly increased wind energy deployment, which is approximately 3,000 MW.
In the recent past, wind energy comprised 17% of the energy mix in both states. Texas 2017 Wind Energy Generation Colorado 2016 Electricity Generation In December 2018, Public Services Company (“PSCo”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy and investor-owned utility serving Colorado, announced that by 2050, its electricity generation is slated to be 100% clean energy, derived from renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and sequestration.
PSCo had previously sought to achieve a 55% renewable energy generation by 2026. To that end, in October 2018, PSCo opened Rush Creek, Colorado’s largest wind farm comprised of 300 turbines, covering 100,000 acres in eastern Colorado and capable of serving 300,000 homes. PSCo built approximately 90 miles of transmission lines from the Rush Creek generation site to a transmission line tie-in, at a cost of $120M.
Rush Creek’s wind energy costs $0.03kWh. In short, wind energy deployment in Colorado is proceeding at a frenetic pace, driven in part by the rapidly declining costs. This increased deployment is notwithstanding Colorado’s seemingly decentralized transmission policies which potentially hamper development of interconnections to wind energy development, in comparison to Texas, for example.
This dissonance is the focus of this article which compares the success of Texas and Colorado using a socio-political framework, the SPEED framework for energy deployment. Background of Transmission Lines The places where the wind blows can be distant from the load, the population centers where energy is needed. Unlike coal or other sources of energy that can be transported to a central location outside a city, wind energy must be harnessed and transported via transmission lines.
The wind maps for Texas and Colorado are provided below, illustrating that high wind zones are geographically far from the population centers. Texas Annual Average Wind Speed at 80 meters from ground Colorado Annual Average Wind Speed at 80 meters from ground Although not directly addressed herein, wind resources are unequally distributed throughout the United States, such that wind energy could be transported interstate from areas of high wind to high load. The inclusion of “dispatchable” wind may address the intermittent nature of wind diversifying and interconnecting various wind sources.
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