Energy Policy and Texas
The most scandalous aspect of the coal-plant controversy is the refusal -- yea, the inability -- of coal-plant foes to describe just how they'd go about providing for Texas' large and growing energy needs at a time of shrinking natural gas supplies and deep opposition to nuclear power. We hear about "conservation." We hear about wind power, solar power; we sometimes even hear about coal gasification. We never hear coal-plant foes explain how that's going to happen, and what it would mean and cost. Coal gasification, for instance: The technology is (at present) expensive and still under development. Wind? A nice little supplement, but a major source? Show us where and how much.
The major problem with wind as a power source is that it doesn't blow all the time. To remedy that, Texas is spending $30 million a year to bolster its back-up power, in a change to the electricity grid that began on Nov. 1. ...
The transmission problem is so acute in Texas that turbines are sometimes shut off even when the wind is blowing.
"When the amount of generation exceeds the export capacity, you have to start turning off wind generators" to keep things in balance, said Hunter Armistead, head of the renewable energy division in North America at Babcock & Brown, a large wind developer and transmission provider. "We've reached that point in West Texas." ...The exact route of the transmission lines has yet to be determined because the state has not yet acquired right-of-way, according to Mr. Withrow of the utility commission.
The project will almost certainly face concerns from landowners reluctant to have wires cutting across their property.
An opinion recently issued by the Texas Attorney General appears to call into question the ability of county governments to grant property tax abatements for wind energy generation equipment. ...citing case law, the opinion observes that "[f]ixtures and improvements owned by the owner of real property are also real property, but ordinarily improvements owned by a lessee of real property are personalty." Therefore, the opinion concludes that since the fixtures and improvements in the situation at hand were owned by the developer and not the land owner, the improvements are personalty and are not eligible for an abatement under Section 312.402(a).
Several Texas energy companies offered Thursday to build a string of wind, gas and coal-fired power plants and transmission lines across the Panhandle that could lessen the state’s future dependence on coal while supplying enough electricity for more than a million Texas homes.
More than 15 proposals were filed with the Public Utilities Commission to meet a Thursday deadline for competitive renewable energy zones, mostly in the Panhandle and West Texas.
The largest proposal, called the Panhandle Loop, involves a $1.5 billion transmission system and $10 billion in power plants. Project sponsors say the entire system could be available within three years.
Texas utility regulators on Thursday awarded nine companies rights to build $5 billion in new electric transmission lines to move power from windy areas to big cities like Dallas and San Antonio, a move aimed at doubling renewable energy supplies. ...But rapid addition of turbines in the western half of the state outstripped the ability of the existing high-voltage network to move the power to the state's largest cities, creating costly grid congestion in 2008.
A divided Public Utility Commission gave preliminary approval today to construct $5 billion in transmission lines to bring wind power from West Texas to urban areas.
The project is expected to cost average household consumers about $4 a month.
It should boost the state's wind farm business, already the largest in the nation, to even greater levels. It would increase capacity for wind generation to 18,456 megawatts.
The plan, which is expected to be finalized later this month, is a middle ground between five scenarios ranging from $3 billion to $6.4 billion.
Opposition to the construction of high-voltage transmission lines in Texas could result in a smaller-scale project than originally envisioned by state officials, State Sen. Kirk Watson told a crowd of local workforce leaders Wednesday at a conference on renewable energy and state politics.
"Elected officials and regulators are working at scaling back and actually scrapping portions of the CREZ lines."
Texas officials gave preliminary approval Thursday to the nation's largest wind-power project, a plan to build billions of dollars worth of new transmission lines to bring wind energy from gusty West Texas to urban areas. ..."We will add more wind than the 14 states following Texas combined," said PUC Commissioner Paul Hudson. "I think that's a very extraordinary achievement. Some think we haven't gone far enough, some think we've pushed too far."
Wind-farm developers, retail electric providers and others in Texas outlined their recommended approaches for dealing with overloaded power lines in areas with thousands of megawatts of wind farms, according to filings posted at the Public Utility Commission of Texas Thursday.
Such congestion forces the curtailment of wind-turbine operations, so parties want to establish a system for priority dispatch of power generated by wind-turbines in the "competitive renewable energy zones" in Texas.
Texas consumers and taxpayers could pay more than $2.2 billion a year in subsidies and higher transmission costs to take advantage of the state's abundant wind-generation resources, a free-market research group said on Tuesday.
The state's current push to accelerate use of wind-generated electricity is "costing, not saving, Texans billions of dollars," said Bill Peacock, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Center for Economic Freedom. ...By 2025, the study said the price tag could total $60 billion as Texas reaches 10,000 megawatts of wind capacity.
The wind in the offshore area "is not super-strong, but it's steady," Jim Suydam, a spokesman with the land office, said in an interview. "The wind blows hardest in the daytime," when power is most expensive, unlike West Texas, another area with wind farms that has the strongest wind at night, he said.
LUBBOCK - Texas figures to lead the nation in renewable energy production by 2025 and stands to gain $22.8 billion in annual economic activity and 173,400 jobs overall, according to a study backed by a group that supports alternative sources of power.
The Texas project, announced in June with plants scheduled to begin operations in 2014, is expected to be the first in a new wave of economical and emissions-free nuclear power plants.
A power producer typically gets paid for the power it generates. In Texas, some wind energy generators are paying to have someone take power off their hands.
Because of intense competition, the way wind tax credits work, the location of the wind farms and the fact that the wind often blows at night, wind farms in Texas are generating power they can't sell. To get rid of it, they are paying the state's main grid operator to accept it. $40 a megawatt hour is roughly the going rate.
A group of Democratic senators may seek to halt stimulus funding for wind-energy projects over concerns that the program is subsidizing jobs overseas.
The dispute was prompted by a proposed wind farm in West Texas, whose investors planned to use Chinese-made turbines and seek a $450 million stimulus grant. The senators insist that stimulus funds shouldn't go to projects that get most of their materials from abroad and create "the bulk of their jobs" in other countries.
As the session progresses, renewable energy advocates are bracing to defend critical policies that have helped Texas become the leading wind-power state. The ascendancy of the Tea Party, an abundance of cheap natural gas and tighter budgets have reduced the sway of the wind industry. Solar power advocates anticipate limited gains at best.
The state of Texas will partner with private-sector parties to invest more than $10 billion in new wind energy infrastructure, Gov. Rick Perry said Monday.
The wind energy initiative will diversify the state's energy production, clean up the air and help Texas surpass its renewable energy goals, Perry said in an announcement Monday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
In this pancake-flat country, where the wind blows so relentlessly that the sagebrush and mesquite are permanently bent, Royal Dutch Shell Group, BP PLC and a wind-development company owned by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are racing to lease vast expanses of ranchland. In a bet on wind power's long-term viability, they're planning to erect what would be some of the biggest wind farms in the world, with thousands of wind turbines costing some $2 million apiece.