Tag Archives: coastal wind

ERCOT latest planning documents shows more gains for Wind, Solar

It ain’t the most exciting meeting in the world, but once a month, I attend the “Reliability and Operations Subcommittee” at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the Texas electric grid.


And once a month, our group – composed of generators, consumers, market players, retailers and wires companies among others — gets a monthly planning update known officially as the “System Planning Monthly Status Report.” Click here for access to the report itself.

And that report not only shows how much energy was used in ERCOT that month, it also shows how much from various types of resources, and more importantly, what resources — be they wind, solar, storage, gas, or coal — will be serving future loads. All of those proposed projects must go through financing, environmental permitting, and a complicated registration and study process with local wires companies known as an “Interconnection Agreement.” Even getting an approved interconnection agreement done is no guarantee a project will be built, because environmental permits, financing and market conditions still must exist for a project to move forward. Just ask the developers behind coal projects like Las Brisas and White Stallion where their projects are today. Fortunately, market conditions and a spirited citizen’s campaign, including the Sierra Club, helped doom those projects.

So what do the latest figures tell us? They suggest that there are some 13,000 MWs of proposed energy projects that have already signed an Interconnection Agreement or are in the process of getting an interconnection agreement (some 31,000). Of those, only two projects – the Summit Power Plant in West Texas and the  Sandy Creek project — are coal, and that represents only about 1,000 MWs of power, a relatively modest amount. In fact, there are slightly more MWs composed of solar projects in the process — at 1,264 MWs — than coal. Just last month, the White Camp Solar project in the panhandle became the first proposed solar plant in Texas of at least 100 MWs to officially sign an interconnection agreement with American Electric Power, which runs the electric grid in that area of the state. There is also almost 1,000 MWs of storage being looked at, and get this — some 22,000 MWs of wind power, much of which is located along the coast. The rest – about 19,000 MWs — is gas, much of intended only to meet peaking power needs.

The wind story is impressive and the ERCOT document further reports that if all of the wind projects with signed interconnection agreements actually go forward, wind production within ERCOT would go from about 10,500 MWs today to some 15,000 MWs in 2015. Currently, that wind is providing anywhere from a fraction of Texas’s electricity needs, to some 35% on certain days when the wind blows hard, particularly in the spring.

Fuel Type

Confidential Projects (MW)

Projects Under Full Study (MW)

Public Projects (MW)

Suspended Studies (MW)

Grand Total (MW)

Gas-AllOther                         449                         –              6,903
Gas-CombinedCycle                     6,506                         –            12,457
    Total Gas               2,615                   9,790                     6,955                         –            19,360
Nuclear                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Coal                      –                          –                     1,165                         –              1,165
Wind               2,748                 13,859                     5,062                         –            21,669
Solar                   395                       719                         150                         –              1,264
Biomass                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Storage                      –                       874                           40                         –                  914
Petroleum Coke                      –                          –                            –                         –                     –
Grand Total               5,758                 25,242                   13,372                         –            44,372

Source: ERCOT, Summary of Generation Interconnection Requests, June, 2013.


Austin City Council and Austin Energy Looks to Be Moving Forward with 570 MWs of Wind Contracts


How do you replace coal power from Fayette? With contracts like those proposed by Austin Energy before the City Council on June 20th. Austin Energy presented two proposed contracts for 570 MWs of wind at a favorable price before City Council. While the contracts don’t directly replace power from the Fayette Coal Plant, these new contracts will help wean Austin off of coal in the future. Austin Energy is asking City Council to approve the negotiations of the contract. City Council did endorse — on a 7-0 vote (see minutes two through eight of video)– moving forward, and the final contract should come back to the City for a final vote on June 27th.

The Lone Star Chapter endorses moving forward on negotiations with Duke Energy and EON Climate and Renewables to contract up to 570 MWs of new wind resources, to be built between 2014 and 2106 in Starr and Nueces Counties. We would request, however, that Austin Energy work with the developer to assure best practices to reduce bird and bat fatalities, including the use of radar technology and a commitment to stop wind production during migratory fly-over events. Other coastal wind companies have made similar commitments and implemented these projects.

 If AE is successful at reaching a contract for 570 MWs of new wind through these contracts at the announced price, AE could nearly meet its overall 35 percent goal by 2016, and meet all of its expected 2020 wind goal of 1,000 MWs by that date (see Table 1).

Table 1. Total Wind Resource, Austin Energy

Year MWs
2009 439
2012-2013 wind added 295
2014-16 wind added 570
total in 16 1,304
expired contracts -203
Total with expired contracts 1,101
Generation Plan 2020 Goal 1,001
Generation that would be added to Goal 100

Austin Energy has announced that they would seek other similar contracts in coming years if the projects are available at these competitive prices. At the proposed price, the power from these new wind units would be competitive with the prices we currently pay for power produced by the coal plants without the pollution or water use needed by those coal plants (see Table 2). Preliminary figures suggest we currently pay slightly under $30 per MWh for coal, about $40 dollars per MWh for gas and $50 dollars per MWh for our current amount of renewables. These new contracts, however would be closer to the price we pay for coal.  One of the ways that Austin can permanently retire its use of coal is by these contracts, as well as commitment locally to building out our solar and energy efficiency resources. In fact, we believe this could be accomplished by 2016 in part through these new contracts.

Table 2. Current 2012 Production Costs per MWh

Category 2012 Fuel Cost (or equivalent) per MWh Estimated Total Production Cost
All Resources, 2012 $32 $42
Coal $25 $30
Nuclear $5 $15
Natural Gas $57 $63
All Renewables on System Fuel cost is PPA $51
2012 Wind Contracts Fuel cost is PPA $35 to $45
New Wind Contracts Fuel cost is PPA $23 to $33

Note: These are estimates from Austin Energy’s Annual Performance Report Year Ending September 2012. Any errors in these estimates are Sierra Club’s alone.

Table 3 shows a hypothetical plan to rid ourselves of all 600 MWs of coal, by expanding our solar goal to 400 MWs, increasing our use of energy efficiency to 1,000 MWs of demand reduction by 2020, and expanding our wind goal from 1001 MWs to 1,349 MWs including these new resources being contemplated. This can be done for approximately the same price as we currently pay for generation.


Table 3. Comparison of Current Generation Plan and Get out of Fayette by 2016 with Added Wind and Solar

Category Austin Energy’s Current 2020 Plan Get Out of Fayette by 2016  Plan
% of Annual Electricity Demand Met 100% 100%
% of Peak Hourly Demand Met 100% 100%
% Generation from Renewables in 2020 34.3% 50.1%
% Capacity from Renewables in 2020 33.0% 48.1%
% of Peak Demand from Coal, 2016-2020 21.25% 0%
Carbon Emissions 2020 (metric tons) 4,495,900 1,788,600
Sulfur Dioxide Emissions 2020 (Metric Tons 889 266
Mercury Emissions 2020 (Pounds) 147 0
Total Expected Capital Costs through 2020 ($ million) 2,950 3,260
Water Intensity (gallons/kWh) 0.64 0.49
Annual Expected Fuel Costs in 2020 ($ million) 360 330
Expected Increase in Cost of Electricity in 2020 (¢/kWh) 2.7 2.6
Energy Efficiency Goal 800 MWs 1,000 MWs
Solar Goal (1/2 onsite) 200 MWs 400 MWs
Wind Goal 1,001 MWs 1,349 MWs

Source; Models run by Austin Beyond Coal on Austin Energy PRP Model Version 26 with PACE Energy Costs, June 2013;

Notes: The model makes assumptions about future operations, fuel and construction costs based upon data provided by PACE Consulting in 2009, with three changes made based upon more recent data. First the average fuel price for natural gas at combined cycle plants was reduced from $70 per MWh to $50 per MWh. Second, a one-time additional expense of $250 million for operating the coal plant was assumed in 2016 based upon expected pollution control equipment needed. Third, we assumed a new lower cost for the new wind contracts of $35 per MWh. The model is a static model, meaning for example, it does not take into account the ability of Austin Energy to purchase energy on the market, or sell its own generation resources into the market. Actual costs and projections would require a dynamic model, updated with more recent prices and projections.

Wind in Texas up to 15% of our energy use….

This is from a recent greenwire report — once the three Austin Energy contracts make it in, that total should be even higher next year.. read below

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Wind supplies record 15% of Texas power supply  (Wednesday, October 19, 2011)

Nathanial Gronewold, E&E reporter

Wind is providing more power than ever to Texas’ main power grid.

Wind farms generated a record 15.18 percent of the grid’s total power demand on the afternoon of Oct. 7, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said yesterday.

From more than 10,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, the council said, Texas’ turbines fed 7,400 MW of electricity to the grid at just past 3:06 p.m., when the total peak load was 49,000 MW.

The total wind generation beat the previous record set June 19, when turbine output totaled 7,355 MW, or 14.6 percent of total power load, ERCOT said.

The acceleration of new tower and turbine construction in the past year has seen wind’s share of Texas’ power supply grow from around 8 percent to 10 percent of total energy generating capacity, industry experts estimate.

The rise in wind energy is tied to a new focus on building turbines along the Gulf of Mexico, rather than inland where most of the state’s wind farms are found (ClimateWire, Aug. 23, 2011).

ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark said grid operators noticed last month that coastal projects were delivering between 50 and 70 percent of the state’s total wind power supply on some days. This despite the fact that coastal projects constitute 13 percent of Texas’ installed wind capacity, she said.

“The operators in our control room noticed that [coastal wind] was actually picking up around the time that our load was picking up,” Roark said.

Boosters of coastal projects say building Gulf of Mexico turbines makes sense since the wind blows stronger there during the daytime, when supplies are needed most, rather than at night when most inland generating areas see their highest wind speeds.

Results from coastal projects are also fueling a push for offshore wind development as Texas races to become the first state in the nation to generate power from wind towers installed in the ocean.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) celebrated Texas’ new wind power generation milestone.

“Wind generation offsets the use of expensive fossil fuels, is pollution-free and uses virtually no water, unlike other sources of electricity,” said AWEA transmission policy manager Michael Goggin in a release. “This is yet another case showing that large amounts of wind energy can be integrated into existing utility systems reliably.”

Austin’s Electric Utility Commission approves new wind contract; considers proposed rate case

In a further boost to Austin Energy’s clean energy mix, the Electric Utility Commission unanimously recommended that the municipal utility go forward with a proposed contract with Iberdrola Renewables to get up to 200 MWs of coastal wind energy from their Kenedy Ranch project known as Peñascal Wind. The proposal would double Ibedrola’s current capacity, as Ibedrola currently serves power to CPS Energy in San Antonio and the South Texas Electric Cooperative. The proposal will now go to Austin City Council for final approval.

Penascal Wind Farm

According to Austin Energy’s Michael Osborne, the price per megawatt hour will be in the $40 to $45 dollar range, competitive with natural gas. With the proposed additional 200 MWs from Ibedrola, plus the Webberville Solar Project and two previous wind contracts approved by Austin Energy last week, Austin Energy should be well on their way to meeting their city-approved goal of 35 % renewable energy by 2020. Importantly, Iberdrola has agreed to continue to use avian radar technology to curtail the wind power during migratory, low-visibility events.

In addition to the contract, the EUC held a three- hour public hearing on Austin Energy’s proposed rate increase. Dozens of individuals and organization presented their views, which for the most part felt Austin Energy’s proposal put too much of a rate increase on residential customers, and in particular, on those not using much electricity, the wrong message for a utility committed to a large energy efficiency goal. Sierra Club made its own presentation about how to align the rate case with our generation plan to grow renewables and lessen our dependence upon dirty coal. For more information about the rate case and our efforts to get Austin off coal, see this facebook page. Look for a fullscale website soon!

Cyrus Reed, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

Austin to invest in Clean Wind Energy in South Texas?

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.