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Study: Wind power to Texas cities may cost $6 billion

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.

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.

With large swaths of West Texas considered ideal for wind development and state and federal incentives encouraging such projects, that capacity could grow to as much as 24,000 megawatts in the coming decade. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

Multibillion dollar transmission projects are not unprecedented in Texas. A five-year transmission planning report published in December by ERCOT projected $3 billion in new projects through 2012 — not including the wind-related projects.

Long-distance... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

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.

With large swaths of West Texas considered ideal for wind development and state and federal incentives encouraging such projects, that capacity could grow to as much as 24,000 megawatts in the coming decade. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

Multibillion dollar transmission projects are not unprecedented in Texas. A five-year transmission planning report published in December by ERCOT projected $3 billion in new projects through 2012 — not including the wind-related projects.

Long-distance transmission costs account for about 6 percent of a residential customer's monthly bill, according to ERCOT. Most of the bill goes to power generation, with the rest to retailers and power distribution.

The cost of the transmission lines from West Texas would be spread among all the state's electric customers, even those in communities far from the wind farms.

Wind energy proponents say, however, that the projects would still benefit the entire state, even in cities that don't get their power from those projects.

"At the end of the day whether you buy your power from Reliant, Gexa or Green Mountain, those retailers will see lower cost options in the wholesale market because of more wind," said Jolly Hayden, vice president of transmission development for FPL Energy, the largest wind power operator in the state. "It will put downward pressure on prices, not to mention the clean air benefits."

But wind has its shortcomings. In late February ERCOT had to take emergency measures to avoid rolling blackouts when a cold front led to a drop in wind speeds in much of the state and a decrease in power output.

It was later determined some fossil fuel-fired power plants worsened the problem by failing to meet their promised output.

ERCOT this week said more wind power could be safely incorporated into the grid with better wind forecasting tools and fuel-fired backup power plants.

Down to 5 options

For the transmission study, ERCOT considered hundreds of options before narrowing it down to five possibilities.

The least expensive option would cost $2.95 billion and calls for 5,150 megawatts of new wind power that would require about 1,600 miles of new power lines.

The most expensive would cost $6.38 billion, could handle 17,956 megawatts of new wind power and calls for 3,000 miles of new lines.

That option includes a 360-mile, 2,000-megawatt direct current line that would tie into a substation in western Harris County. Direct current transmission towers are much smaller than the more common alternating current high voltage transmission towers, meaning they often cost less and can be built more easily.

Direct current typically is most useful over long stretches where lines aren't tapped regularly for local use, which requires conversion back to alternating current.

The Texas Public Utility Commission is expected to review the report in the coming months and recommend a particular plan. Power companies could then apply for permits to construct the lines, which could take up to five years, according to a PUC spokesman.

tom.fowler@chron.com


 


Source: http://www.chron.com/disp/s...

APR 3 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/14227-study-wind-power-to-texas-cities-may-cost-6-billion
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