Articles filed under General from Texas
Herman J Schellstede, owner of an oil industry equipment company in New Iberia, is betting the Gulf of Mexico can produce enough wind to power thousands of homes and businesses. He's preparing to establish 62 huge wind turbines in the gulf off the coast of Galveston, Texas, that would produce 150 megawatts of power for electric generation. Some of the turbines will be mounted on abandoned platforms like the oil rigs Schellstede constructed in the gulf for 42 years.
Texas has become enamored of its own wind. We now have the biggest wind-generating capacity in the country, and we're building more. But the reason isn't because we're motivated by environmental concerns - that's just feel-good marketing to rally the green crowd and woo the La-Z-Boy environmentalists. Wind power is an open trough of government subsidies, tax credits and state mandates. Taken together, it's a massive corporate welfare effort that means big money for the wind-power developers and big costs for the rest of us. Ironically, at a time when Texas extols the virtues of free markets for electricity, it's investing heavily in the most subsidized form of power.
TexDOT says the Ralph Fair Road bridge over Interstate 10 is hopelessly damaged and will have to be demolished and replaced, a job which is expected to take several months. The bridge has been closed since late June after a truck hauling a propeller wing for a wind power turbine in west Texas slammed into one of the bridge abutments. Engineers say it will be impossible to repair the bridge.
It's hard to grasp, though, how parts of the plan would be implemented. Assuming all the rights to millions of acres could be acquired and the wind farms built, there's still the problem of wind itself. It doesn't always blow. A recent study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates found that wind power is least available between June and September, the peak months for electricity consumption. When the turbines are becalmed, we'll need other power plants - primarily gas-fired ones, which can be started more quickly than other types of generation - to meet demand. What's more, someone has to pay for building transmission lines to carry the power from the prairies. Guess who? In Texas, the cost of new transmission lines is born by consumers, not the generators.
"You're building, typically the projects way out in the middle of nowhere, long distances from the load centers," said Lisa Linowes of WindAction.org. Indeed, the flat Midwest is where the country's wind blows the most - the so-called "wind alley." But cities along the coast are where the majority of people live. So getting that power to the people would mean a massive, multi-billion-dollar grid restructuring. Plus, winds die down in the summer, when demand is the highest. Some turbines have been known to kill migratory birds. And, not everyone welcomes such a sight in their backyard.
Today, Pickens will take the wraps off what he's calling the Pickens Plan for cutting the USA's demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade. To promote it, he is bankrolling what his aides say will be the biggest public policy ad campaign ever. The website, www.pickensplan.com, goes live today. ...Of course, Pickens also has a particular solution in mind. Wind. And natural gas.
There is such a thing as too much wind power. Sure, wind is among the cheapest, cleanest fuels generating the power Texans increasingly demand. But as officials brag about the state's status as the No. 1 wind producer in the country, they're also debating how much is too much. Building the transmission lines to bring wind power from rural West Texas to population zones will cost billions. And even with enough transmission lines, the on-again, off-again nature of wind can leave coal and natural gas-fired power plants scrambling to fill in the gaps. For electricity companies, predicting wind patterns is a new art. ...The arguments against supporting too much wind are swaying PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman. Last month, he said he'd been leaning toward the scenario to build the largest amount of transmission, but after hearing arguments from various parties, he favors a more modest scenario.
Sweetwater may not be the wind-energy capital for long. Pickens is in the process of building what could be the world's largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. "We're going to build a 4,000-megawatt farm in Pampa, and we've already bought the turbines for the first 1,000 megawatts, and we'll start construction in the summer of 2010," Pickens said. "We've put together all the land for it. The landowners are ready; we're ready." Pickens landed at Avenger Field at 2:21 p.m. with a crowd of about 50 gathered to see the man with an estimated net worth of $3 billion.
A spokesman for FPL Energy says a recent report by a local TV station saying all the turbine blades at Horse Hollow Wind Farm are being replaced is inaccurate. "We are not replacing turbine blades at Horse Hollow," said Steven Stengel. "Let me emphasize 'not.'" Instead, a "routine" repair will be made on the lightning receptors on 95 of the 421 turbines on the farm southwest of Abilene, Stengel said.
Texas has moved closer to drawing the final map for transmission lines to carry wind energy to the state's largest cities. ...The next step is a final hearing and a decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas on where to put transmission lines to connect West Texas wind farms with consumers in the rest of the state. ...Shell expressed disappointment with what it perceived as the PUC's timid attitude displayed at an earlier hearing. The PUC could no doubt hear the sound of wind, but it was "air being sucked from the room as the ERCOT and PUC staff witness panel left many gathered for the proceedings feeling deflated," according to Shell's brief.
A river. A park. A projected destination near downtown Dallas. The Trinity River project is expected to be a beauty. But winding along it could be something tall, environmentally green and what some consider intrusive. Discussion has started at city hall about lining a two-mile section of the Trinity toll road with wind turbines - 80 of them, all 80 feet tall. The Dallas City Council, as of this week, is studying whether to add wind turbines.
By year's end, developers expect to have about 250 huge wind turbines in place on Kenedy Ranch north of Raymondville, generating enough electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes. And more could be on the way. ...In May, the alliance filed a court petition seeking to stop the development. The federal judge who heard the case has not yet made a decision. The groups say that the ranch is on a major migratory pathway for birds, and they believe that tall, fast-spinning turbines on that pathway could lead to trouble. "We think there's a very high likelihood of catastrophic bird kills," said Elyse Yates, spokeswoman for the alliance.
Construction is well under way on two wind farms that, in the first phase, would cover about 20,000 acres of the historic ranch, the developers - Australia-based Babcock & Brown and Portland, Ore.-based Iberdrola Renewables, formerly PPM Energy - confirmed late last year. Still, environmental groups and the King Ranch haven't given up the fight to stop them. ...The Coastal Habitat Alliance is dogged in its efforts to stop the projects because the groups say they want more studies to be done, and for the public to have a say - even though the farms are on privately owned land. In its lawsuit, the alliance says the project should be subject to federal coastal-management rules, which call for environmental reviews of any electricity-generating plants.
Members of the Texas Public Utility Commission are struggling to decide how much new transmission should be built to take advantage of the state's abundant wind resource. Major power lines are needed to transfer wind generation from sparsely populated West Texas to Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, where electric demand is highest. Commissioners are weighing the benefits and costs of four transmission-route scenarios proposed by the Texas electric grid operator to accommodate from about 12,000 MW to as much as 25,000 MW over the next four years. ...Attorneys for residential and industrial customers urged the panel to look hard at promised cost benefits versus rising costs to build power lines. Transmission costs are paid by customers in areas with the most electric demand.
Colorado has lost out on a bid for a Vestas Wind Systems research center. Vestas, which opened a major blade-manufacturing plant earlier this year in Windsor, announced Monday it will locate the research facility in Houston. Colorado was the other finalist, according to Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.
Thousands of wind turbines in the US are sitting idle or failing to meet their full generating capacity because of a shortage of power lines able to transmit their electricity to the rest of the grid. The issue of transmission capacity will be high up the agenda as 10,000 wind power industry executives descend this week on Houston, Texas, where the shortage of power lines is hampering the state's alternative energy plans. ... A proposal for $6.4bn of new power lines linking new wind farms with the state's public electricity grid, whose cost will be borne mainly by consumers, is proving politically controversial. Wind farm developers are examining building their own private lines.
Wind power in Texas was mostly a curiosity in 2000 when the state first opened its wholesale electric markets to competition. About 300 turbines were spinning away in rural West Texas, creating a mere 200 megawatts of power. Today the state has 5,300 megawatts on line, 25 times more than in 2000 and enough power to light more than 1.5 million homes. ...With another 44,000 megawatts in wind projects on the drawing board, the forecast is for continued growth for years. But challenges, both economic and environmental, may be looming.
It was a bold statement Tuesday in Gray County when oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens announced that Pampa would be the wind energy capital of the world. That was shortly followed by another statement. The billionaire said, when he's going to do something, it gets done. Pickens was talking about his $10.4 billion wind farm set to sprawl across 200,000 Panhandle counties.
San Antonio is part of the growth, as the city's CPS Energy is ranked No. 1 among municipal utilities in the amount of wind power it buys. "I can see 2,000 wind turbines outside my window, some twice as high as the Statue of Liberty," said Greg Wortham, founder of the West Texas Wind Energy Consortium in Sweetwater. "There's multiple billions of dollars worth of wind farm development going on. The growth is all so much more than people realize." But wind farm developers face three obstacles as they plan expansions. Texas lacks adequate transmission capacity to get power from Panhandle and West Texas wind farms to cities along Interstate 35, from Dallas south to San Antonio, and east to Houston. Also, the federal tax credit that some say has spurred much of the wind farm construction is set to expire at the end of this year. And, too, some property owners are objecting to wind farm construction and transmission lines that would cross their property.
Muted anger and a rustle of frustration moseyed through the Twin Lakes Community Activity Center in Jacksboro Wednesday night. Around 75 area landowners attended an open house sponsored by billionaire T. Boone Pickens' company Mesa Power in an effort to learn more about the company's right-of-way project that will run a water pipeline and electric transmission lines through the heart of several North Texas counties. ... Jack County landowner Drexel West smoked a cigarette with noticeable aggravation outside the building after discussing the project with representatives of Harris Deville & Associates, an issues management firm hired by Pickens to handle the public relations end of the project. West's assessment of the issue echoed many in the building. "They are coming through, one way or the other, whether I like it or not," he said.