Remember when Environment Texas, back in May, said 30-mile-by-30-mile solar plants in west Texas could power the entire state? Nine hundred square miles of solar panels to provide the power that Texas’ growing population demands? This outlandish plan is not imminent — and hopefully never sees the light of day.
But wind energy is a different story. Wind capacity is growing in Texas, so a look at wind’s potential to meet a large portion of our energy needs is more appropriate to explore.
The standard assumption is that America has the potential to get 20% of its energy needs from wind. If we did this in Texas — putting aside for a moment the issues surrounding the viability of doing so — what would that look like?
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas projects a total of 374,740,989 MWh of energy in the ERCOT region in 2018. One-fifth of this is 74,948,198 MWh. Assuming an average capacity factor of 30% for every 1.5-MW turbine, more than 28,519 MW of wind capacity is needed (Texas’ current wind capacity is 5,553.1 MW.). That’s about 19,013 1.5-MW turbines.
The American Wind Energy Association says that 60 acres are required per MW of wind power in the flat, open areas that you find in Texas. So, 28,519 (MW) x 60 (acres) = 1,711,140. That means 2,673 square miles will be required for ERCOT to get 20% of its energy needs from wind energy in 2018.
Oh, and since each turbine base uses 439 tons of concrete: 8,346,707 tons of concrete.
– Drew Thornley