Articles filed under Energy Policy from Texas
The region long known for sheep and goats, cattle feedyards, cotton fields and oil derricks is evolving into a hub of alternative energy, with plans for ethanol plants and wind farms, and possible nuclear reactors and coal-powered plants. "These rural communities have to find something they can have in their area that provides quality of life and will generate the economic activity that allows communities to thrive and grow," said Greg Clary, a Texas Cooperative Extension economist who works with the Texas Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.
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.
There is yet another plan to get wind power to the people who need it. In testimony filed with the Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday, that group's director of transmission oversight backtracked on a previous plan he proposed. T. Brian Almon said the Panhandle Loop plan is still a bad idea, but sending power to the Dallas area via Oklahoma by the X Plan is not such a good idea either. "I believe that there exist at this time uncertainties related to how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would react to a very large export from Texas and then import into Texas of power," he said.
Meanwhile, as the nation considers options for future energy development, environmental questions have emerged as important considerations, the NRC report states. Proponents point out that wind-energy facilities emit no atmospheric pollutants and are driven by a renewable source, addressing multiple environmental concerns such as air quality and climate change. However, the NRC report also points out that the expansion of such facilities can carry adverse environmental impacts.
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."
A new study could put 10 Texas counties in front of the pack to lure wind energy companies and related industries to them. The city of Childress, along with 10 counties and Harmon County in Oklahoma, have formed the Rolling Plains Rural Partnership and are applying for a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office. The yearlong study, if funding is approved, would place about nine or 10 anemometers around the partnership's area. The anemometers collect and record wind data for the entire year. The exact areas the towers will be located will be determined by a meteorologist and based on elevations and current and future transmission lines. What the group is banking on is the creation of the Panhandle Loop, an electrical transmission system being debated that would transmit electricity from West Texas to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas's grid, which provides electricity to a majority of Texas residents. The $1.5 billion loop is in the planning stages, but is awaiting the outcome of June hearings by the Public Utilities Commissions to approve wind energy areas in West Texas.
Taylor County landowners who went to court to fight a wind farm built in their neighborhoods may have gained a powerful ally in potential future battles: the fabled King Ranch of South Texas. The ranch ownership, now a corporate holding company, is fighting a proposed wind farm next to one of its spreads in Kenedy County. A group of Taylor County landowners, mainly residents of the southwest quadrant of the county, lost a jury trial last December. They sued Florida Power & Light affiliates, owner of the Horse Hollow project west of Tuscola and Buffalo Gap. The landowners sought damages for reduced property values they claimed were caused by the building of the wind farm, the world's largest. Steve Thompson, the Houston lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said he was filing a notice of appeal of the 42nd District Court case on Wednesday. The 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland would hear the appeal. Dale Rankin, a lead plaintiff in the case, said King Ranch should prove a potent ally. "I would think so," he said Wednesday. "They carry a little bit of weight around Austin."
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry last year, James Clement Jr., chairman of the board of the fabled King Ranch, vowed that the ranch will fight a new threat to its land as it has all others: "We have been here for 150 years fighting droughts, border raiders, and unstable commodity markets. . . . We are here to stay." The new threat, unlike the others, is a recent phenomenon: wind power. King Ranch Inc., the agricultural holding company that owns the South Texas ranch and other properties, is backing legislation that could choke off the boom in Texas wind energy by requiring new state regulations of wind turbines.
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.
Some call it a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, but others point to significant environmental costs. In Kansas, where winds blow strong, the push for clean energy includes not only new wind turbines but also new nuclear-power plants as part of a "carbon-free" solution to climate change. It's an idea that may be catching on. At least 11 new nuclear plants are in the design stage in nine states, including Virginia, Texas, and Florida, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute website. But that carbon-free pitch has researchers asking anew: How carbon-free is nuclear power? And how cost-effective is it in the fight to slow global warming? "Saying nuclear is carbon-free is not true," says Uwe Fritsche, a researcher at the Öko Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, who has conducted a life-cycle analysis of the plants. "It's less carbon-intensive than fossil fuel. But if you are honest, scientifically speaking, the truth is: There is no carbon-free energy. There's no free lunch."
HOUSTON – Texas, as everyone knows, does everything big. Its giant oil and gas fields dominate America's energy patch. It is now the nation's largest wind producer, with more than 2,000 turbines gathering some of the country's strongest currents. It gets the booby prize for being the biggest producer of greenhouse gases. And now Texas faces a big hole in its electricity production, since the country's second-most-populous state also happens to be one of the fastest growing because of immigration and the rise in riches from the recent increase in oil and gas prices. That hole just got bigger as the TXU Corp., the state's largest utility, scrapped eight new coal-fired plants under a deal it has agreed to with potential new owners. The deal has delighted many environmentalists, but it has also stoked one Texas-size problem. Unless new generation is built quickly from some source, Texas energy production in 2009 will fall below reserves recommended by the state operator of the power transmission grid for guaranteeing smooth operations during peak periods of high heat.
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.
Four Texas environmental organizations are suing Gov. Rick Perry over his order to fast-track permitting for proposed power plant projects, alleging the actions are illegal and unconstitutional. TXU Corp. has proposed to build several new coal-powered plants in Texas, and its $10 billion plans in the state include expansion at TXU’s Monticello power station in Mount Pleasant, Texas. The company wants to add a 858-megawatt electric generating unit at the plant which would use coal and lignite. The lawsuit, filed this past week in Travis County state district court, was initiated by four groups, including East Texas Environmental Concerns. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges it’s unconstitutional for Perry to manage the way the State Office of Administrative Hearings conducts hearings. SOAH is now considering TXU’s application after a draft air permit was issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in October...............Ted Royer, spokesman for Perry, disputed the illegality of Perry’s fast-track plan. “It is yet another unfortunate attempt by these groups to turn Texas into California when it comes to generating the power we need. If these groups have their way, a few decades from now Texans will flip a light switch and nothing will happen,” said Royer. “The fact is we are one of the fastest growing states in America and our population will double to 40 million people in the next few decades and that creates a huge demand for energy.” Royer said Perry’s strategy is to address that “coming crisis” through investing in such things as wind energy and clean energy sources and by encouraging conservation and building new plants. He said Perry’s order didn’t lower standards or regulations the new Texas power plants would have to meet.
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.
Wood, who now is in the business of developing clean power generation and independent transmission, believes the state needs a balanced approach to power generation. "We need wind but we also need coal -- cleaned up as much as you can," Wood suggested, in addition to natural gas, which currently fuels more than half ERCOT's power.
John Richey of Chico is concerned about global warming and thinks that anything people can do to help the cause is worthwhile. With that in mind, Richey attended a meeting about wind turbines in Jacksboro on Monday night. The speakers at the meeting – held before a packed house in the Jacksboro High School auditorium – were generally opposed to wind turbines.
Residents of Jack and surrounding counties nearly filled a school auditorium Monday to hear speakers presented by a group opposing wind turbines in the region. Jack County Concerned Landowners, which hosted the forum, invited residents of Archer, Cooke, Montague, Palo Pinto, Wichita, Wise and Young counties to attend. Arguing against development of wind energy were Jack Hunt, president and CEO of King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas, Thomas Hewson, an energy and environmental consultant, and Steven Thompson, a Houston attorney specializing in environmental law and wind energy.
The Panhandle could be a step closer to plugging into the electric market downstate on Monday.
An assurance from Gov. Rick Perry about the future of wind energy is already boosting spirits in Odessa. Neil McDonald, economic development director of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, said he is now talking with three wind power-generation companies interested in the Odessa area. McDonald acknowledged that Perry’s announcement will help those negotiations along as well as possibly bringing more wind-power representatives to West Texas. McDonald said it was still too early to identify the companies.
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.