Library filed under Energy Policy from Texas
The thing about West Texas that you can't ignore, that you can never forget, is the wind.
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.
For environmental and geopolitical reasons, the U.S. must reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Traditional coal-fired plants are dirty and contribute to foul air problems in North Texas and elsewhere. Coal gasification, a cleaner technology, is relatively untested on a large scale. Wind and solar power are clean but insufficient. Natural gas is becoming more expensive.
In June, Austin-based Green Mountain Energy Company – self-described as "one of the nation's largest retail providers of cleaner electricity products," generated from sources such as wind, solar, water, biomass, and natural gas – announced the crosstown relocation of its headquarters from aquifer-sensitive west Austin to an award-winning green office tower downtown, in anticipation of growth and expansion. By the time the move was complete, however, the energy provider had discontinued servicing about 480,000 customers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, laid off 15% of its workforce, and found itself facing suit in federal court. Green Mountain blames regulatory and market obstacles for its woes, but its critics cite an over-reliance on natural gas and a lack of investment in the very clean energy sources the company has made its trademark.
This working paper is made available by the Resource and Environmental economics and Policy Analysis (REPA) Research Group at the University of Victoria. REPA working papers have not been peer reviewed and contain preliminary research findings. They shall not be cited without the expressed written consent of the author(s). Editor's Note: The authors’ conclusion regarding ‘effective capacity’, i.e. the measure of a generator’s contribution to system reliability that is tied to meeting peak loads, is that it “is difficult to generalize, as it is a highly site-specific quantity determined by the correlation between wind resource and load” and that ‘values range from 26 % to 0% of rated capacity.” This conclusion is based, in part, on a 2003 study by the California Energy Commission that estimated that three wind farm aggregates- Altamont, San Gorgonio and Tehachpi, which collectively represent 75% of California’s deployed wind capacity- had relative capacity credits of 26.0%, 23.9% and 22.0% respectively. It is noteworthy that during California’s Summer ’06 energy crunch, as has been widely publicized in the press, wind power produced at 254.6 MW (10.2% of wind’s rated capacity of 2,500MW) at the time of peak demand (on July 24th) and over the preceding seven days (July 17-23) produced at 89.4 to 113.0 MW, averaging only 99.1 MW at the time of peak demand or just 4% of rated capacity.
This 'informal white paper' authored by the renewable energy industry and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas addresses the impact of wind's intermittency on the need for the development of comparable capacities of reliable sources that can be called upon when the wind is not blowing. It contains a particularly interesting chart that characterizes different energy sources as 'base load', 'peak load' and 'intermittent' with their associated benefits and drawbacks. Wind is deemed 'intermittent' with the following benefits (no emissions, no fuel costs, stable cost, low operating cost) and drawbacks (not dispatchable, not responsive, transmission needs, low peak value).