Austin, Texas is about to meet its goal of getting 35% of its energy from renewables, four years before the 2020 target date.
Its utility, Austin Energy, is about to sign contracts for two large-scale wind farms that would bring 570 megawatts (MW) from the Gulf coast. The City of Austin will sign 25-year power purchase agreements to receive the energy at a cost of $1.4 billion.
The cost for the wind energy – estimated at between 2.3 cents to 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – beats natural gas at 4 cents, which doesn’t include building a plant, which is expensive.
The contracts are with Duke Energy, which is building two, 200 MW wind farms that come online in 2014 and 2016, and with E.ON Climate and Renewables, which is building a 170 MW project that should be ready in 2014.
Austin Energy currently has similar contracts with other coastal wind farms that produce almost 500 MW for about 4 cents per kWh.
The utility’s groundbreaking GreenChoice program, established in the late 1990s, has led the US in renewable energy sales. It tied electric rates to some of the first contracts with Texas wind farms when the industry was just getting off the ground.
Austin Energy also has a 30 MW solar plant which produces electricity for 16.5 cents per kWh and plans to build out its solar portfolio to at least 200 MW by 2020. And it buys energy from a controversial biomass plant, the largest in the nation. And it offers unlimited electric car-charging at more than 100 locations.
Texas leads the nation on wind capacity which grew 18% last year, adding over 1800 MW for a total of 12.2 gigawatts across more than 40 projects. Wind supplies 9.2% of all electricity generated in the state.
Thanks to a $6.8 billion investment in new transmission lines, Texas is will be able to deliver double that wind capacity to its cities. Read about what’s going on with solar, wind and natural gas in Texas.
Meanwhile, next door in Oklahoma, wind power is also getting cheaper. Prices are about half that of last year, making it less expensive than coal or natural gas.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric also leads utilities in green power sales. It just cut prices for its Wind Power program, where customers can opt to get 25%, 50% or 100% of their electricity from wind. Wind energy comes from the utility’s portfolio of 6358 MW of projects.
Most of the 12,000 customers (residential, commerical and industrial) signed up for the program get 100% of wind, which costs them about $3.50 a month. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University have contracts to get all their electricity from wind.