Articles filed under Energy Policy from Texas
The potential for wind energy is vast, but forgive West Texans if they have an overblown (pun intended) view of what it could mean in the future. Among those, of course, would be Panhandle oilman T. Boone Pickens ...All that said, we have to understand the realities of the entire nation and not be dazzled by the positive effects that have been and will be felt from a regional standpoint.
Texas is requiring utilities to generate 5,880 megawatts of electric power from renewable sources by 2015 and 10,000 megawatts by 2025. No problem there. Wind power entrepreneurs have created a new energy boom in West Texas. There's already more wind electricity available than the limited transmission system in the region can handle. And hundreds of private companies have proposed new electric highways. They are waiting for the Public Utility Commission of Texas to determine who will get the cost-plus contracts and where the lines will be constructed.
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
Unrealistic energy policy is not limited to Washington, D.C. Numerous states clamor for "green" status - picking energy-supply winners and losers and rushing to judgment in the ongoing and unsettled debate on greenhouse-gas emissions. Environmental groups have virtual veto authority over cleaner coal-fired power plants, nuclear facilities, and oil refineries, which can meet an exponentially larger portion of energy and electric demand than the heavily subsidized renewable energies. ...Consumers deserve energy realism, not fanciful plans to replace fossil fuels with renewables. When misguided environmental theory dictates energy policy, the result is high prices, unreliability, and inadequate supply.
I don't have the benefit of a $58 million marketing campaign, but I'm willing to throw down my own five-point proposal, culled from years of writing about, researching and discussing the issue with energy experts, including Pickens. My plan begins with the idea that energy is really about economics. The solutions, therefore, must make economic sense. That doesn't mean consumers won't have to pay more - we will. And providers must be able to make reasonable returns. Subsidies are fine to develop technology, but we can't sustain businesses that aren't profitable without them, which is why I'm skeptical of wind power.
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.
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."
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.
Eight legislators from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex sent a letter to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Monday urging the Commission to opt for aggressive expansion of electricity transmission capacity from West Texas to reign in soaring electric bills and prevent further pollution of local air. ...The letter calls on the PUC to adopt Scenario 3 when it meets Thursday to continue its discussions regarding which scenario will offer the greatest benefits to Texans for moving electricity from the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) in West Texas and the Panhandle.
The large wind farms just to our north on the Kenedy Ranch are under construction and the owners expect to have 250 wind turbines generating enough electricity to power some 90,000 homes by the end of this year. ...While the privately owned Kenedy Ranch is the site of wind farms under development by private corporations, the government continues to prop up the industry through subsidies in the form of tax credits. In other words, wind farm development likely would be a less attractive business venture without help from the government.
Texas should meet its growing electricity demand by encouraging more power plants fueled by coal and nuclear power, maximizing use of the state's vast wind resources and reducing dependence on expensive natural gas, according to recommendations by a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. The report was issued Thursday by the Competitiveness Council, consisting of more than two dozen business, consumer and government representatives. It made 36 energy-related recommendations aimed at achieving "long-term sustained economic success." A public hearing on its conclusions is scheduled for Monday in Austin.
We like the idea of wind power because it seems natural and clean. Windmills, after all, are part of our pastoral vision of Americana - power, nostalgia and patriotism rolled into one. What's not to like? Only the economics. Wind power, despite the government's best efforts to create a market, continues to be dogged by the same problems it always has: high costs, limited reliability and bad location. No wind, after all, blows forever, and when it does, it's not blowing where people need power. Even now, West Texas wind farms sit idle, awaiting new power lines to take high-priced power to the people.
State regulators welcomed wind farms into Texas' unfettered wholesale power market through a special process to designate the best wind-power production zones and to accelerate construction of power lines -- costing from $3 billion to $6 billion -- needed to link those remote areas to more populated areas of the state. However, problems that surfaced in the Texas wholesale market as wind's influence reached a critical level this spring should be a warning for the rest of the nation, said Lawrence Makovich, vice president and senior power adviser at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Wind is not a direct substitute for conventional power supply," said Makovich. ...Wind is attractive if added in moderation, Makovich said. "It has a desirable environmental profile, but you want to incorporate a smart amount of wind," he said. "If you add too much, you may impose too much additional cost."
[L]et's take a closer look at the wind business to figure out why America isn't already running on free wind power. One reason of course is that Americans are spoiled and want the power to be on all of the time. ...That is a problem when the wind doesn't blow all of the time.But more importantly, if you do the math, the investment in this part time power plant alone, neglecting transmission, profit, and operating overhead, is $13,000 per home. I say part time, because we must remember that someone has to own the backup power plant that isn't making any money when the wind is blowing. Solar in some ways is even worse when it comes to the massive arrays and land necessary to place them on. And like wind, solar is not full time, science has not figured out how to keep it from getting dark at night. I am certainly not against technology, just so long as we get the whole story. Like ethanol, we can burn our food supply, but not without repercussions.
Released Tuesday, the 443-page Energy Report 2008 shows state and local subsidies of $1.4 billion on energy produced in Texas, plus a similar amount of federal subsidies for Texas energy. ...[Texas Comptroller Susan] Combs said Tuesday that subsidies can have unintended consequences -- especially when policymakers favor "winners" by providing greater subsidies for one fuel source over another. "Such assistance must be applied carefully," the report says. "Public policies that attempt to pick winners in the race for new energy technologies are an inefficient way to achieve policy goals and run the risk not only of wasting taxpayer money but also of directing private investment away from more promising use."
Wind energy proponents extol wind as free, safe, and clean, but these characterizations miss the point. Energy users expect reliability, and challenges dot the path from wind to electric grid to energy consumer. For wind turbines to produce power, the wind must blow. Because the wind does not blow constantly, wind turbines produce a fraction of their potential generating capacities. Furthermore, winds blows the least during the summer months when electricity is needed the most. ERCOT relies on just 8.7 percent of wind power's capacity when determining available power during peak summer hours. Also, due to wind's intermittency, those relying on wind farms must rely on conventional power sources to back up their supply. Wind's variability and its lack of correlation with peak demand highlight a major challenge for wind energy ...Wind energy also comes with legitimate environmental concerns.
It's not a question of whether the state should pursue clean-air strategies -- but rather which ones, and at what cost. Who stands to save money and who stands to pay more? Is nuclear power part of the solution? ...The solar-power industry already lags far behind wind in Texas, which recently leapfrogged over California to become the largest wind-power-generating state in the nation. And many more wind turbines are expected ...solar power enjoys several advantages over wind -- advantages that increases the value of sun power for those paying the bills. For instance, because the wind typically stops blowing during the middle of hot summer days, Texas won't get much use from those expensive new transmission lines when it needs the power the most. Obviously, that's not a problem with solar. Wind also presents tough -- and sometimes expensive -- technical challenges. Because wind turbines will stop spinning without a moment's notice, engineers at the power grid must sometimes have more expensive standby power ready and waiting.
Hooking up the state's largest cities to rapidly expanding wind power projects in West Texas could cost as much as $6.3 billion in the coming years, the state's grid operator says. In a report this week to the state Public Utility Commission, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees most of the state's power grid, listed five options for getting wind-generated electricity to the populous areas that need it. Even the least ambitious would cost almost $3 billion. Texas is the largest wind power producer in the country, with more than 4,400 megawatts of capacity installed — about 2 percent of the state's total power capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
The Texas House Regulated Industries Committee next month will hold a public hearing in Amarillo to discuss the future of the industry in West Texas. "What we will do in that meeting is have about 50 counties and 75 cities present resolutions to the PUC (Public Utility Commission) and to the committee supporting the wind farms out there and trying to help get the transmissions out there," said state Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, who has been working for over four years to bring wind power to West Texas.
The PUC estimates the state will need an additional 75,000 megawatts in the next 18 years as older, less-efficient plants are retired. Statewide, some 20-25 gas-powered plants are being planned, along with three coal plants, and two or three nuclear plants. Wind farms are being added, but they still only provide about 5 percent of the state's electrical needs. Even if it were all the proposed plants were to come onto the grid, Texas might still be paying more for electricity than other states, according to Terry Hadley, spokesman for the Public Utility Commission. "What sticks out is the fuel cost," he said. "Most plants in Texas use natural gas, and the price of natural gas is just soaring."