Brief Overview of Wind Energy in Texas, and Issues to Consider When Constructing a Small Wind Energy System

By  Mauricio Escobar

For a state that leads the country in the production of crude oil and natural gas, one would be surprised to learn that Texas also leads the country in wind energy production. In fact, wind accounts for nearly all of the electricity generated from renewable resources in Texas.[1] Texas’ strong position in investing in the wind energy sector has also made it the indisputable leader in wind energy.[2]

In 2005, the Texas legislature enacted a law requiring the public utility commission to create Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), which designated areas in the wind heavy, rural north of Texas for wind farms to be built.[3] CREZ was a $7 billion project in which transmission lines were built to connect to future wind farm.[4]

As wind blows across a landscape, it will turn two or three-propeller like blades around a rotor.[5] The rotor is connected to a main shaft which spins a generator to create electricity. All of this comprises a wind turbine, which is mounted on a tower. The taller the tower, the more it will be able to capture faster and less turbulent wind.

For those with enough resources to construct a wind energy system on their property, there are some things to consider that may impact the project. As in any construction project, local regulation or ordinance will tell you a lot about what you can or cannot do.[6]

  • How tall can the tower be compared to the size of your property:

    • E.g., One Texas ordinance states that tower heights of not more than 100 feet must be allowed on parcels of land between 1 and 5 acres. For properties with more than 5 acres, there is no tower height limitation other than that which is imposed by FAA regulations or recommended by the designer/manufacturer. Additionally, most ordinances provide that the minimum distance from the ground to the lowest reach of the blade or turbine must be 20 feet.

  • Setbacks

    • Most ordinances appear to require that a wind turbine (or a wind energy system) be no closer to the properly line than one hundred twenty-five percent of the height of the tower

  • Sound levels

    • Most ordinances indicate that sound produced by the turbine or blades under normal operating conditions, must not exceed sixty decibels (typically measured at the ground along the property line)

  • Lighting

    • Texas ordinances state that towers must comply with the requirements of the FAA with regard to lighting

  • Building permit applications

    • Most ordinances require that the application be accompanied by a drawing or a site plan of the system and the component parts. An engineering analysis of the tower showing compliance with the International Building Code and certified by a licensed professional engineer is also typically required

These are but a few of the issues to consider when determining whether to install a wind energy system.

[1] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly (November 2017), Table 1.11.B,

[2] American Wind Energy Association, Texas First in the nation in wind capacity, wind jobs,

[3] U.S. Dep’t Energy, Office of Energy Efficeincy & Renewable Energy, ERCOT, The Competitive Renewable Energy Zones Process,

[4] Jim Malewitz, $7 Billion Wind Project Nears Finish, The Texas Tribune, Oct. 14, 2013,

[5] U.S. Dep’t Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, How a Wind Turbine Works,

[6] The following apply to what are commonly called “small wind energy systems,” which are those systems that have a rated capacity of 100 kilowatts or less and will be used primarily for onsite consumption.

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