The Wind Industry Thats Taking Off In Texas

By Markets Fool.com

One of the U.S.' biggest oil producers is also the state that's leading the nation in adding wind to its electricity generation.

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In this segment from Industry Focus: Energy, The Motley Fool's Sean O'Reilly and Taylor Muckerman explain where Texas is today in terms of wind and renewables compared to other states, where they're going in the future, and how Texas became such fertile soil for the renewable energy industry.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Sept. 1, 2016.

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Sean O'Reilly: I wanted to talk about the state that is leading the nation in adding wind capacity to its mix of electricity generation. Surprising to some, the answer is Texas.

Taylor Muckerman: Yeah, one of the biggest oil-producing states. Although, oil isn't really used for power in the U.S., but they produce a lot of gas down there, as well.

O'Reilly: You've been aware of this for a while. Can you walk me through where they are now, relative to other states, and what you think their plans are for the future?

Muckerman: Yeah. Here's a state that basically generates about 16% of electrical generating capacity with wind as of April of this year. It's a state that's also been reliant on coal and natural gas for quite a while. When George Bush was the governor, and then Rick Perry was the governor --

O'Reilly: Bush actually pushed a lot of this through, didn't he?

Muckerman: Yeah, they allowed for freer markets, and the capital markets to do as they will. West Texas is where he's from, a very windy area of the country. So, he understood that that could be a potential boon for the state. So, they freed up a lot of things, provided some state and federal subsidies for these things that have wound down, or are winding down. So, you've seen this massive uptick in wind power and solar power. If you look at 2001, renewables are about 2% of Texas' energy source. In 2016, right now, as I mentioned, you're looking at 16% from renewables -- that's wind, solar, and hydro. Fossil fuels shrinking from 92% to 79%. The largest fossil fuel producing state in the lower 48 ...

O'Reilly: Also the leader in wind power. Now, they're hoping to catch California with solar. California is currently the leader in solar installations. But they're hoping to catch up there, too, right?

Muckerman: Yeah, they're trying. You see, they are 10th place right now in solar capacity. They're looking to maybe creep up to second in the next five years. California, obviously, a very sunny state. I think it's bigger than Texas, is it? So, it has equal or similar land mass. So they have the same opportunity there. But they're looking at 19,000 megawatts of solar capacity to be built within 15 years, up from 500 megawatts today. That's a big increase.

O'Reilly: When I saw this, what popped back into my mind was, do you remember about eight years ago, T. Boone Pickens was pushing his Pickens plan? He actually had a cool map. It showed the United States, and they had it color-coded based on average wind speed, and basically the corridor from The Dakotas down to Texas, he described it as the "Saudi Arabia of wind," and how we should just build a bunch of wind turbines throughout that entire section of the country.

Muckerman: That was a total on about face by Pickens and his energy powerhouse. But yeah, you're looking at some of these facilities being 45 acres big.

O'Reilly: That's enormous!

Muckerman: That's pretty massive for solar. And to see a state that most people associate with ... I would be surprised if a lot of people even thought that any solar was going on down there. And that's kind of eating a company like NRG Energy's (NYSE: NRG) lunch, because, traditionally, coal and natural gas, they're trying to get into renewables, but because of this surge in renewable energy production, energy prices for producers are falling. And it's not the only reason NRG Energy has been struggling. It's a very convoluted business model. It caught a lot of hedge funds off guard in the last couple years. But they're losing out on the pricing power.

Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of NRG Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.