EDITORIAL: Charged up

South Texas a national leader in creating renewable energy

Texas history and folklore are inextricably tied to oil. Following the eruption of the Spindletop oilfield on Jan. 10, 1901, this state became one of the world leaders in oil exploration and production, creating some of the world’s richest people in the process. Oil and natural gas, which generally are extracted from the same fields, remain a major state commodity and revenue source to this day; 40% of the country’s oil and 25% of its natural gas are still produced in Texas. So it seems almost heretical to think that our state now is one of the top producers of renewable energy.

In fact, Texas reached a milestone in 2019.

The state, which is the nation’s top producer of electricity, generated more energy from renewable sources than from coal. Since 2018, our state has retired more coal-fired power plants than all the other U.S. states combined, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It’s been a rapid development. The Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance reports that renewable energy production surpassed nuclear power in the state in 2015, and is on pace to surpass natural gas-based generation in 2025. The TREIA projects the state could generate more than half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Those sources predominantly are wind and solar, and Texas is uniquely primed for both. This state leads the nation in wind power generation, and ranks fifth in the world — the top four are countries.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the statewide power grid, reports that periodically throughout the year, wind generation accounts for more than half of the state’s energy. And much of that generation is right here in South Texas.

Traveling on Interstate 69 between Harlingen and Corpus Christi, it’s hard to miss the huge windmills planted amid the ranchland. Power plant builder Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives last month announced plans to build two new wind farms in the area, stretching across parts of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.

With growing concerns about climate change and the effects of fuel combustion and other air pollutants, it’s good to see that this region is one of the nation’s — and world’s — leaders in embracing alternative sources of energy.

That acceptance hasn’t been limited to the placement of wind farms. South Texas entities have helped build the market and encourage development that helps improve efficiency and lower costs. For example, Brownsville’s Texas Southmost College placed a wind turbine at its ITEC center to help generate energy. Other institutions including Texas State Technical College in Harlingen and South Texas College in Hidalgo County have erected solar panels on campus that generate power and also serve as labs for classes studying the technology. Even grocery giant H-E-B has placed rooftop solar panels at stores in Weslaco and throughout the state as part of its Green Building initiative.

We applaud those who are leading the way toward reducing emissions that can harm the environment. Their efforts already are making a difference.