States Share Electricity Between Texas and the Southeast

Fri, 2014-06-06 09:11

A California-based energy company plans to build a 400-mile transmission line, connecting renewable energy resources in Texas to states in the Southeast. The company, Pattern Energy, recently won approval for the project from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Texas is the nation's largest wind energy generator with more than 12,000 MW of wind energy capacity. And its capacity is still growing rapidly—last year renewable energy increased 12 percent in the state. That number is only likely to grow as Texas continues to capitalize on its solar and wind resources.

While its renewable energy is a huge win for Texas, the capacity can't extend beyond the state line—at least not yet. You see, Texas has its own power grid, the Texas Interconnected System, which has limited connections to share power with other parts of the United States. The rest of the county is split in two—served by either the Western Interconnection or the Eastern Interconnection.

In order to transport clean energy to other states, more transmission lines must be built. That's exactly what Pattern Energy is proposing with its Southern Cross project. The line would run from just east of Dallas, through northern Louisiana and end in northern Mississippi. Once completed, the new transmission line could transport up to 3,000 megawatts of power to other states.

Texas' wind power is already sold to utilities and competing retail providers in the state's deregulated energy market, however, Pattern Energy says it makes sense to sell the renewable energy elsewhere. Pattern Power Marketing, a Pattern Energy affiliate, plans to purchase clean energy from generators in Texas to sell in the Southeast.

It may seem like Texas gets the short end of the stick, but that's not the case. The transmission line could cost up to $2 billion to build and create numerous jobs—an economic investment that would benefit Texas. And electricity will be able to flow both ways on the line, so if Texas is ever constrained during peak times, it could quickly get the power it needs to prevent blackouts.

The line will also provide the state an opportunity to generate even more energy. In 2008, Texas began working on its first transmission line to transport the vast amount of wind energy generated in West Texas to other parts of the Lone Star State. Completed at the end of 2013, the $7 billion project added more than 3,600 miles of transmission lines across the state and will allow almost 18,500 MW of wind energy to enter the grid.

This line has significantly improved wind energy investments in Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) singed interconnection agreements for 9,000 MW by 2013, including a 218 MW wind farm built by Pattern Energy. About 7,000 MW is expected to come online by 2016.

With even more potential to sell wind energy, more companies are likely to invest in wind farms in Texas. Plus there's plenty of time to prepare. Pattern Energy says the new line won't be complete until 2019.