Technological advances in energy storage, grid operations
software, and wind turbines could make it possible to integrate
more and more wind power. But how much? That answer will
almost certainly be found in Texas over the next five to 10 years.
And that will have profound implications for the future of wind
power. Because if Texas can’t incorporate much more wind
power, it probably can’t be done anywhere. Beyond the transmission lines and the nearly statewide grid, Texas has plenty of
unoccupied territory for huge, expansive wind farms. You don’t
have that on the eastern seaboard, or in the deep South, or even
in California, where real estate is expensive and nearly all the
wind-generating capacity is clustered in three areas. Offshore
wind farms are another possibility, but they carry transmission
and political challenges that have, so far, limited their scope in
There’s also something less tangible in Texas, something
about the culture. Texans have never been afraid of living close
to big energy infrastructure, whether it’s the pumpjacks of the
Eagle Ford shale formation or the huge refineries of the coast.
The opposition to Big Wind in other states, where turbines are
considered bird-killing eyesores, isn’t a factor. Ultimately, the
wind boom here may underline the limits of renewable energy
as much as it highlights the possibilities. As Kenneth Starcher
says: “Texas is its own place.”
Richard Martin is the author of Coal Wars: The Future of
Energy and the Fate of the Planet and SuperFuel: Thorium,
the Green Energy Source for the Future.
Oil was discovered on this ranch in the
1950s. The well still operates but today
is surrounded by turbines.