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Wind energy in Texas overtakes coal for first time

Wind energy in Texas has now overtaken coal-fired electricity generation for the first time according to the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

While Texas is still the biggest user of coal, ample supplies of natural gas and the increasingly competitive cost of renewable energy generation are encouraging a shift towards cleaner energy generation. Back in 2003, ERCOT data had wind power only accounting for under 1% of the state’s electricity needs, while coal was used to generate 40% of electricity.

Natural gas remains the dominant fuel in the state, however, although this is hardly surprising given the booming production of oil and gas by shale operators like ExxonMobil, the oil major behind Mobil distributors, in the Permian Basin. Natural gas was used to generate 44% of the state’s electricity last year.

Texas has the most potential for wind power of any US state, although the weather played a helping hand in wind power overtaking coal-based generation. A mild spring and summer led to reduced demand, meaning that the state’s coal-fired power plants did not need to come online as much.

A professor in civil and environmental engineering from Rice University, Daniel Cohan, said about the news:

“It still remains to be seen whether [wind] surpasses coal for the entire year. July and August are typically the biggest months for coal generation, and coal could pull ahead. But, so far, it just illustrates the big transition that we’re having away from coal and toward wind power.”

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