Library filed under Transmission from Texas
New Mexico regulators approved construction this month of what could be the Western Hemisphere’s largest wind farm, capable of generating as much power as a mid-sized nuclear power plant. But whether all that energy will have a way to reach the load centers of California and the Southwest remains unclear after the regulators denied approval for new transmission lines meant to link the wind project to urban areas.
AEP's plan to build the largest wind farm in the United States might have been dealt a fatal blow. The Public Utility Commission of Texas voted Thursday to reject the proposed 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher wind farm, stating that as it is structured now, the project doesn't offer clear enough benefits for rate payers.
The nation's biggest wind generator, NextEra Energy Resources, has bought the Oklahoma portion of the proposed 700-mile-long Plains and Eastern Line to serve Oklahoma and Midwest customers. But for now, plans to bring wind energy from the windy areas of Oklahoma and Texas into the less-windy Tennessee Valley and Southeastern part of the United States are stalled and unlikely to be resurrected for years.
If implemented, the proposal would require wholesale power prices to reflect the small amount of electricity lost during transmission through heat or other factors, which would essentially raise the cost of sending power from remote generation plants — such as wind farms — to cities. Transmission losses currently are omitted from prices.
“Basically this decision says that Washington, D.C., knows more than the people of Arkansas do about whether to build across the state giant, unsightly transmission towers to carry a comparatively expensive, unreliable source of electricity to the Southeast where utilities may not need the electricity. This is the first time federal law has been used to override a state's objections to using eminent domain for siting electric transmission lines. It is absolutely the wrong policy.”
Texas utility regulators were adamant yesterday in declaring the coming end to a program known for aiding wind energy, even as they expressed support for completing a project in the state’s Panhandle region. ...Nelson said she thought about the topic a lot and was “diametrically opposed to the concept of treating wind differently than every other generation asset.” She said congestion can point to where more transmission is needed.
The $7 billion is being paid for by all customers, under the regulated portion of the Texas system, which covers transmission and distribution. The Texas Public Utility Commission said the typical residential ratepayer was charged an extra $6 a month or so. “There are some things about the CREZ lines that can leave a bad taste in your mouth.”
Nelson is pushing hard for the re-assessment. She has in the past criticised the wind production tax credit (PTC), even although it is a federal policy and not in her purview. A proportion of her three-page memo was about the PTC. It stated: "The federal [PTC] distorts wholesale electric markets... While this commission has no ability to change what Congress does, we do have an obligation to Texans to periodically review whether our rules appropriately assign cost to those who cause those costs."
Wind power developers warn that making wind companies pay the same transmission rates as other generators will destroy Texas’ lead in wind power and undermine the economics of wind generation. [Public Utility Commission head, Donna] Nelson, however, claims that giving wind companies a pass is no longer necessary because the industry has been around long enough to figure out its economics.
Study to examine whether they should pay a share of expenses to move electricity
In a memo to the commission Thursday, Nelson said the federal tax credit for wind power was distorting the power market. She said that could potentially push base-load generation like coal and nuclear off the grid. And she ordered an examination of the costs to maintain and upgrade the power grid for wind farms and other renewable sources.
Texas PUC chairwoman, Donna Nelson, has initiated an investigation into "the costs of [transmission] system upgrades, the costs to maintain and operate the current system, and the allocation of those costs specifically related to renewable resources." In her memo below (and attached). Chairwoman Nelson warns of the costs, particularly of the wind PTC is extended by Congress.
The $1.6 billion transmission system to take export Texas Panhandle wind power downstate is almost finished, but the Energy Reliability Council of Texas already is looking at options in case all the announced wind farms are built without enough transmission lines to move their power. The wind farms that have requested ERCOT review have production capacities totaling more than 11,000 megawatts.
Sometimes with long transmission lines that are lightly loaded, such as CREZ, it can be hard to control voltage," he says. "Wind energy needs a source to stabilize it and make it stay in sync." Also, as more CREZ-related projects attempt to tie in with the grid, abnormally hot or cold spring and fall temperatures - leading to unexpected high power demand on the system - could cause delays.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas issued its latest quarterly report last week on the progress of wiring West Texas to deliver wind energy to metropolitan areas, and it shows the project first estimated to cost ratepayers downstate $5 billion will now run closer to $7 billion.
The rush to build transmission lines is part of Texas' efforts to promote wind power, which provides 8 percent of the state grid's electricity. Across the state, thousands of miles of wires are being strung at a cost that has soared to an estimated $6.8 billion. The main purpose is to ferry wind energy from remote areas like Sweetwater.
The new number, which amounts to roughly $270 for every Texan, comes from the latest update on the project prepared for the Public Utility Commission. Ratepayers will ultimately be on the hook for the cost, but no one has begun to see the charges appear on their electric bills yet ...Ultimately, the commission says, the charges could amount to $4 to $5 per month on Texas electric bills, for years.
Wind Energy Transmission Texas LLC, a joint venture of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Isolux Corsan Concesiones SA, arranged a $500 million loan to build 378 miles (608 kilometers) of power lines in west Texas.
Utility companies building the transmission line projects have the right of eminent domain, which means they can legally gain the property rights needed for the CREZ projects.
The wind energy industry is playing a waiting game as turbines on wind farms throughout Texas will not have the ability to send the full capacity of their wind-power generation east for at least three years. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) explained that it is still in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones process of approving certificates for proposed transmission lines. The CREZ transmission line network's earliest completion date is slated for 2013.