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How Texas got ahead of wind and solar energy production to help power grid

Thanks in large part to a $7 billion push several years ago, Texas leads the nation in wind power generation.

HOUSTON — Texas leads the nation in wind power generation. It makes up about 20% of the state's energy usage.

Daniel Cohan, an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, said that's because of a major push made several years ago toward identifying competitive, renewable energy zones.

"The state got all sides together and made a plan with about $7 billion of investments in transmission lines, more than any other state was going at the time," Cohan said. "So the wind boom we've had was made possible by that foresight and innovative program."

So, how are the wind and solar farms helping to keep the lights on in Texas?

"If it hadn't been for the tremendous growth we've had, especially in solar the past few years, we would have already been experiencing rolling blackouts even with that heat wave we got in May and really can't imagine how the grid would handle this week's heat wave," Cohan said.

The building of transmission lines has slowed significantly over the years, preventing the state from fully harnessing wind and solar energy to take some stress off the state's power grid.

"So as fast as we're growing, we could be growing even faster if we had a new round of lines being built," Cohan said.

As we head into even hotter summer months, Cohan said it's unlikely we'll see the prolonged power outages we experienced in February 2021.

But, according to Cohan, Texans will feel the pain in another way.

"Already, typical rates jumped from 11 cents to 18 cents. We're talking 60% to 70% spikes in people's power prices. That's gonna hit with our A/C's running full blast in these heat waves," Cohan said.

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