This post was contributed by Stephanie Dula, Community Manager at SaveOnEnergy.

June 10, 2014

For more than a century, Texas has practically had its own energy infrastructure. In fact, it’s the only state that has its own power grid, the Texas Interconnected System. The rest of the country shares power resources on two different power grids, the Eastern and Western Interconnections.

But it appears that’s soon going to change. A new transmission line was recently approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that will enable Texas to easily share its energy resources with states in the Southeast.

The transmission line, which was proposed by California-based company Pattern Energy will have the capacity to transport 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy from North Texas wind farms to Louisiana and Mississippi. The Southern Cross project, as it’s called, will span about 400 miles, beginning just north of Dallas.

Pattern Energy expects the transmission line to be up and running by 2019.

Why Texas?

Texas is making serious headway in the wind energy industry. Already, the state has more wind energy installed than any other state—12,300 megawatts worth. The next closest state is California, and it only has 5,800 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity.

And the state is quickly spinning up new wind farms and solar arrays. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, renewable energy grew 12 percent in 2013.

Texas has already had success implementing a similar transmission line project. At the end of 2013, the state completed a $7 billion transmission line, stretching across 3,600 miles of the Lone Star State. The lines will allow Texas to move as much as 18,500 megawatts of renewable energy from its windiest areas, such as West Texas, to the rest of the state.

Although it’s only been operational for less than a year, the new transmission line project in Texas has helped spur the growth of wind energy even further. ERCOT has already signed interconnection agreements for about 9,000 megawatts worth of renewable energy, 7,000 of which is expected to come on line by 2016.

So far, all of the renewable wind energy is sold through power purchase agreements to utilities or energy providers in Texas’ energy deregulated regions. But Pattern Energy believes there’s a big opportunity to sell the clean energy to companies in other states. Once the Southern Cross project is completed, Pattern Energy will use its affiliate, Pattern Power Marketing, to purchase renewable energy in Texas and then sell it to states in the Southeast.

While it may seem like a great deal for other states, Texas is probably benefitting the most. Electricity will flow both ways on the transmission line. When the state’s energy infrastructure is constrained, it will be able to quickly access the power it needs to prevent blackouts.

There’s a financial benefit too. The new transmission line is expected to cost about $2 billion, boosting the Texas economy with jobs and money. It’s also likely to spur renewable growth in Texas even further, as new companies look to invest and capitalize on Texas’ thriving wind energy industry.

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