Wind generation accounted for nearly 23 percent of power generation for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in the first quarter of 2017, the Lone Star State grid operator said this week.
The announcement marks the highest quarterly wind penetration in ERCOT’s history and underscores the market challenges facing the coal industry in Texas, where power plants consumed some 86 million tons of the black mineral in 2015, or more than double the next largest coal-consuming state.
“It’s just one more data point in renewables’ march to greater market share,” said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin.
ERCOT is the primary grid operator in Texas, where it serves 24 million customers.
Robbie Searcy, an ERCOT spokeswoman, said the grid operator has never observed quarterly wind penetration at this level before.
“I think it is fair to say this is a trend we’re seeing,” she said. “Not only are you seeing these percentages of wind, wind capacity continues to grow in ERCOT.”
Wind is increasingly competitive. Because turbine operators have no fuel costs, their power is generally dispatched before coal and gas.
ERCOT’s installed wind capacity has nearly doubled since 2010, leaping from 9,400 megawatts seven years ago to 18,589 MW today. In 2015, wind surpassed nuclear to become the grid operator’s third-largest power source.
And ERCOT’s installed capacity could surpass 28,000 MW by next year if all the projects with interconnection agreements with the grid operator are built.
“This is pushing coal off the grid,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University.