Energy Policy and Texas
His company purchased 687 wind turbines from General Electric for $2 billion that can produce 1,000 MW and will be delivered in 2011. But there aren't yet any transmission lines from his wind park to the Texas grid to deliver the electricity to the Texans.
Initially he was going to build the transmission lines himself, but now that's "questionable," he said during a stop in San Francisco Wednesday, part of a tour to promote his alternative-energy plan. A transmission line to the west or east from the Texas Panhandle, he told members of the press, is "a little bit big for us."
The Panhandle could be a step closer to plugging into the electric market downstate on Monday.
On an April afternoon in Dallas, not long after parts of the state had lost power in a series of rolling blackouts, Gov. Rick Perry made a get-tough proclamation.
“We’re not going to let the bureaucrats jerk us around,” he said.
The governor was talking about electricity that day — specifically 11 coal-fired plants proposed by TXU — and the bureaucrats he challenged weren’t those in Washington but the ones in the state government. Perry stood shoulder-to-shoulder with John Wilder, TXU’s CEO, when he made the pronouncement.
The “bureaucrats won’t be allowed to hold up approval” for the TXU plants, Perry said.
His support of those plants has become a hot issue in his race for re-election. Perry called last year’s blackouts a “wake-up” call for a state that needs more energy, but his major rivals say the state can find a more environmentally friendly way to meet that challenge.
Concerned about the possible effects of proposed wind power legislation on their property rights, some Fredericksburg area landowners have voiced opposition to a bill by State Senator Troy Fraser that would allow the Gillespie County Commissioners' Court to restrict wind farm construction.
"Once the bill was filed, the phones started lighting up." Fraser said. "We need to gauge both support and opposition."
The Coastal Habitat Alliance - a coalition of eleven Texas-based and national organizations working to preserve the Texas Gulf Coast - today expressed satisfaction that the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas has agreed to hear their appeal regarding the group's intervenor status in the AEP 345 kV transmission line case to be held on October 17 in Austin.
The Texas Public Utilities Commission took no action Thursday on a final order intended to say how much wind power can come from special zones, which were set up to speed the building of transmission lines.
"The staff is still working on the final language for the order," said Terry Hadley, the commission's spokesman. "They expect that no later than the next meeting on Aug. 14."
The preliminary order the staff is fleshing out calls for 18,000 megawatts of wind power
State regulators are making Panhandle wind developers get federal permission before pumping energy downstate, and some fear their projects could be limited. ..."It's up to (the Federal Electric Regulation Commission) to determine how much it wants to keep and how much it wants to relinquish," said Terry Hadley, PUC spokesman. "That's because that area is outside (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and inside the Southwest Power Pool which is under FERC jurisdiction because it is part of an interstate grid."
Early plans could threaten some proposals to build wind farms in the region and cut some Panhandle areas out of prime positions in the wind power race.
The Public Utilities Commission staff recommended last week that Panhandle wind projects send their electricity to the Southwest Power Pool - which covers the Panhandle and parts of Oklahoma and other states to the north - rather than directly to the rest of Texas.
That has one major wind-farm developer concerned.
"Is it a viable market based on the prices paid?" said Pat Wood, chairman of the North American advisory board for wind developer Airtricity. "Based on our analysis, it is not."
Shell WindEnergy and Luminant have a partnership agreement to develop a 3,000-megawatt wind farm in Briscoe County.
The final order is to include the guidelines for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to study where to build transmission lines to get the power from wind farms to population centers and who should do the building, as suggested by PUC Chairman Paul Hudson.
The problem is there may be a cap of 1,000 megawatts per project.
During the proceedings leading up to Friday's decision, developers expressed interest in constructing 24,511 megawatts of wind generation, primarily in West Texas. A megawatt of electricity can power about 250 average homes. "Although the three of us have exercised our best judgement on hundreds of contested cases in our time together, this one does have the feel of the extraordinary," Hudson told his fellow commissioners. "It is, frankly, an astonishing testament to the wind resources available in our state."