Texas called “game-changer” for its approach to transmission for renewables

The state of Texas’ mandate to build out and reinforce its transmission grid before adding renewables is “a game-changer in the U.S.,” according to Stuart Borlase, business development manager for Siemens Energy.

Speaking on the TransmissionHub webcast “The Great Texas Transmission Rush: Lessons learned and outlook for transmission and reliability in Texas,” on April 11, Borlase applauded state officials for what he called their “build it and they will come” approach to renewable energy development.

When the Texas legislature mandated increasing the amount of renewable energy “it realized it had to deal with the limitations of the transmission system,” according to Wayne Morton, general manager, Wind Energy Transmission Texas (WETT). The mandate was to increase renewable energy “from a few thousand megawatts to well beyond 6,000 MW,” Morton said.

“Texas, like many other regions, had saturated the existing transmission between where renewable resources are located and where the load centers were,” Morton said.

However, he added, state leaders proactively answered the question of “which came first” to solve the “chicken-and-egg” problem that often arises with transmission and wind development.

The state legislature empowered the Public Utility Commission Texas (PUCT) to expand the transmission grid. Working with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the two organizations selected the competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) where wind resources would most likely be located. The organizations then developed a transmission grid to serve those locations.

Transmission lines that will serve the CREZ areas are currently being built by several companies, including Morton’s WETT, and are expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

When they’re finished, the CREZ transmission system will remove existing congestion on the transmission system from west to east Texas, enabling up to 18,000 MW of wind generation to be built, according to Morton.

Texas also needs new generation from other energy sources to improve reliability and prevent rolling blackouts, and the CREZ lines will also increase access to other forms of energy.

“We have a lot of resources – even gas resources – that are available in west Texas,” Morton said.  “With all that transmission capacity, it’s going to allow the expansion of any other generation resources in the area [because the] transmission system is agnostic.”

The expanded transmission system will allow new generation from a variety of resources for improved system adequacy, he said.

Overall, Morton said, the CREZ plan demonstrates how Texas encourages business expansion. “It typifies forward thinking of Texas and policies that encourage investment and economic growth across Texas, and underscores that Texas continues to understand the importance of infrastructure to business, especially energy.”