Hydro electricity generation has long been the nation’s largest source of renewable electricity. In Texas, the LCRA’s dams power plants can supply as much as 295 megawatts of electric power; this is a very small percentage of the overall power portfolio of Texas.
Though water flowing through electricity producing turbines in dams has historically been the largest producer of renewable electricity in the US, after over 8000 MegaWatts of new wind generating capacity coming on board in 2016, wind electricity surpassed hydroelectric. At least ‘momentarily.’
It was EXTREMELY DRY in the West and Pacific Northwest last year and that had an big impact on total hydro electric capacity, as hydro-power plant operations were forced to curtail output during the almost catastrophic drought conditions. (Nearly half of all hydro power in the US is generated in the West). With all of the precipitation in California and Northwest at the end of 2016 and through the beginning of 2017, the drought conditions have all but been relieved. This makes it very likely that hydroelectric operations will be able to resume a ‘full steam ahead’ status allowing hydro electric to once again exceed wind generation. But, hydro power may not hold that title for long, regardless of levels of rainfall. You can see from the image on the right that wind generation capacity continues to climb, while hydro capacity seems to have peaked.
Both wind generation and hydro electric generation are affected by the environment and its seasonal patterns. Hydroelectric power typically peaks around spring and early summer. Wind generation will peak in the spring and once again in the late fall or early winter.
In Texas, we continue to set records for the highest electricity production through wind generation. The ERCOT region (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) continues to generate the highest levels of wind electricity of all regions in the US electric system. At times, wind generation has been almost 50% of the generation mix for the Texas ERCOT system.
Texas is BY FAR the largest producer of wind generated electricity.
Take a look at these numbers:
Texas – Installed wind capacity: 20,321 MW (State rank = 1)
The next closest is Iowa with an installed wind capacity of about one third of the Texas capacity at 6,917 MW.
“Everything is Bigger in Texas” indeed!