BLOG: Wind Power to Surpass Coal in Texas, Expert Predicts

With the expected retirement of several aging plants and the continued growth of wind power, the production of electricity from wind turbines may soon supersede that from coal in Texas.

That’s the word from University of Texas-Austin research fellow Joshua Rhodes, who recently projected that Texas will have 14.7 gigawatts of coal capacity by the end of 2018, as compared to 24.4 gigawatts of wind capacity.

If Rhodes’ projection holds up, it would mark a dramatic reversal in fortunes for a generation source that long has been a mainstay in the Texas power market. It also would occur even as the Trump Administration continues signaling a desire to shore up coal generation nationwide.

Rhodes, who is a research fellow associated with the UT Energy Institute, cited the expected retirement of several major coal plants in Texas plus the expected addition in 2018 of four gigawatts of wind generation.

Rhodes also said it’s possible that wind generation in Texas could surpass coal not only with regards to overall capacity, but also with regards to the cumulative amount of power put on the grid. This is significant because wind generators — due to the intermittent nature of the resource — can be less consistent power producers.

“Given current capacity factors for the respective technologies, it’s conceivable that energy generation from wind could possibly overtake coal in the near future,” he said.

All three major coal plants set for retirement — Monticello, Sandow and Big Brown — are owned by Dallas-based Luminant. ERCOT, the organization that manages the state’s primary power grid, has authorized the closure of Monticello — saying its shutdown should not adversely impact system reliability. ERCOT is still considering the potential impact of the other two closures.

Those retirements were announced even as the Trump Administration makes moves to rescind the nation’s Clean Power Plan, which was developed under former President Obama and which sought to cut emissions from power plants.

There are 1,000 megawatts in a gigawatt. A megawatt of power is roughly that amount needed to serve 200 homes on a hot summer day.

— R.A. Dyer