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Study: In Texas, wind power beats natural gas

It's windy deep in the heart of Texas. Installing wind power is a better deal than more natural gas plants, according to new research.

Wind power is worth it, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

ERCOT studied the costs and benefits of wind power in three scenarios and concluded that expanding wind power in Texas would outweigh the total costs of boosting the state's electrical grid with conventional technologies. (Renewable Energy Access has a more detailed story here.)

The organization estimated the costs of putting in 5.1 gigawatts (GW), 11.6GW, and 18GW of new wind energy as well as the required grid connections. The 5.1GW plan would bring with it a $3.8 billion premium, but save $1.2 billion in fossil fuel costs a year. The 11.6GW plan would cost $4.9 billion, but save $1.7 billion in fuel costs annually. (Estimated fuel cost savings were not included for the 18GW scenario, but will be included in a future study.) Either way, both programs would pay off in about three years. Wind turbines last for decades; thus, new turbines would save billions over time as well as cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

If you assume 2 kilowatts a house, 5.1GW is enough for 2.6 million homes.

Wind, according to many, is the cheapest form of renewable energy and in many places it is quite plentiful. Ireland could nearly supply all of its power through wind and some companies are developing technology to store wind power so that these plants could provide power on calm days. Wind harnessed at night, for instance, could pump water up a hill, which could be released during the day. The high demand of turbines, however, has created a shortage.

Texas gets 49 percent of its electricity from natural gas plants, says Renewable Energy Access. The U.S. has 16.8GW of wind power installed and 4.4GW is in the flat, windy plains of Texas.