The 6,272-megawatt peak — which does not include turbines in the windy Panhandle because that region is on a different grid — surpassed another record, set last Sunday near midday. The state’s overall wind average is significantly lower than these spikes: Last year Texas got 6.2 percent of its electricity from wind, according to Dottie Roark, a spokeswoman for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid serving most of the state. The nation as a whole has less than 2 percent wind in its electricity mix.
Texas’s progress in installing turbines is testing the bounds of just how much wind the electrical grid can handle. Some turbines are slowed or shut down on windy days because the state does not have sufficient transmission wires to move all the power from the remote, windy areas of West Texas to cities like Dallas and Houston that need it. Last night and this morning, for example, the prices for wind generation offered on the main Texas grid actually fell below zero, a sign of oversupply that usually prompts wind generators to shut down their turbines.
Texas is spending nearly $5 billion to fix the transmission problem. It plans to build a web of power lines that would be able to deliver the wind energy from congested West Texas, home to 89 percent of the wind capacity on the state’s main grid, to power-hungry cities. That process, however, looks likely to be delayed by a recent court decision.
Meanwhile, the state is able to break new wind records partly because of the growth of wind in areas with sufficient transmission. A 180-megawatt wind farm opened last September near Corpus Christi, said Ms. Roark of the electric council. NextEra Energy Resources, a major wind developer, also recently completed a private transmission line for its enormous wind farm in West Texas.
Texas’s challenges may serve as a test case for the nation. A 2008 Energy Department report outlined the changes that will be needed if the nation is going to achieve a goal of 20 percent wind power by 2030. One of the key prerequisites, the report said, is better transmission lines.