By Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director
As part of its commitment made in its 2020 Generation Plan, Austin Energy will be bringing two proposed contracts to city council to invest in renewable wind power in South Texas. Under the first contract, Duke Energy would build at least 200 MWs of wind power in Willacy and Cameron counties in South Texas by the end of 2012, and in 2013, Austin Energy would have the rights to this power under the contract. Under the second, MAP Royalty, a private California company, would build and provide power from 91 MWs worth of wind near Laredo in Webb County. Both contracts would be 25-year contracts and would have a fixed cost of some $40 per MWh, which is approximately the wholesale cost of electricity today. By locking in the price now, Austin Energy would be providing a stable price for renewable energy. According to Austin Energy, the additional 291 MWs of wind, plus a planned investment in 30 MWs of solar power would bring Austin Energy up to 26% renewable energy by 2012. The contracts will come up before City Council and the Electric Utility Commission for a vote in late August and early September. Among the issues likely to be discussed are the number of local jobs generated, where the turbines will be manufactured, and any mitigation measures to avoid any adverse impacts on birds and bats. One of the advantages of coastal wind power is it blows during the day, while West Texas wind tends to blow hardest at night when less power is needed. The Sierra Club supported the 2020 Generation Plan, which calls for a 35% renewable commitment by 2020, and a look at phasing out our use of energy from coal and the Fayette Power Plant. Information about the public meeting can be found at the City of Austin City Council Meeting Information Center.