Tag Archives: Renewable energy

Strong Texas Wind Industry Bolsters Triple Bottom Line

Technicians work to install a wind turbine in West Texas. (Photo credit: New York Times)

Technicians work to install a wind turbine in West Texas. (Photo credit: New York Times)

Due to the economic difficulty of the past several years, much of our country has become enveloped by a sense of urgency to recover from recession. Obviously, the central focus of this urgency is to create jobs, and, as some might suggest, create them even at the expense of the environment. Indeed, economic recovery and environmental protection seem to be pitted against one another with astonishing frequency. However, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that we can accomplish one without compromising the other – and that we already are, to some extent. In fact, by simply looking within our own state, we see proof of a renewable energy industry – led by wind power generation – that is creating a wealth of economic opportunities for Texans.

Since the revision of the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) in 2005, which mandated an expansion of the state’s renewable energy capacity to 10,000 MW by 2025, there has been increased emphasis on fostering a strong renewable energy industry in Texas. This effort, aided by state programs and incentives, has enjoyed its share of success. In fact, Texas renewables blew the lid off of the aforementioned target in spectacular fashion – by 2010, wind energy capacity alone surpassed the 10,000 MW goal that was set for all renewables to achieve by 2025. Consequently, Texas has become the leading state for wind energy production and accounts for over 22% of the nation’s installed wind capacity. Accordingly, this large investment in Texas wind power has come to support many high-quality jobs for skilled workers. According to a report by the Governor’s office, wind energy-related employment in Texas accounted for 25,798 jobs as of the fourth quarter of 2011. Furthermore, the average annual wage was $61,908 – a figure that is well above the average income for Texans.

The prospect for continued growth in wind industry employment is promising, as well. According to a report by the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, the wind and solar energy industries are projected to add 6,000 jobs per year in Texas through 2020 (with a strong likelihood that a larger proportion of these will be created by wind energy). Such strong growth in renewable energy employment goes hand-in-hand with the increasing competitiveness of renewables in the Texas energy market. According to a recent study by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), wind and solar energy in Texas will enjoy much more significant growth over the next 20 years than they had previously expected – a conclusion that was reached after recalculating wind and solar competitiveness using more recent cost and energy output measures.

ERCOT's updated capacity forecast is located on the right side of the graph. Their previous capacity assumptions are on the left side. (Illustration credit: EDF)

ERCOT’s updated capacity forecast is located on the right side of the graph. Their previous capacity forecast is on the left side. (Illustration credit: EDF)

If ERCOT’s assumptions about the Texas wind industry are correct, investors and employees alike will be pleased, but so will rural Texans, who will continue to benefit from the economic development that wind farms bring to their communities. Landowners, including farmers and ranchers, are able to lease their properties to wind developers for an extra source of income. Property values in rural communities that are suited for wind development continue to rise. Local businesses in rural Texas have received new customers to serve in businessmen and turbine technicians alike. Furthermore, increased tax revenues for previously cash-strapped rural governments have provided some financial flexibility.

This trend bodes well for the Texas workforce, which will benefit from an increase in well-paying jobs. Moreover, meeting new demand through drought-resistant energy resources will provide tremendous benefits to the state in saved water resources and curbed toxic emissions (both of which help prevent environmental and economic losses), and will also help prevent pollution-related health problems for our citizens. As renewable energy projects grow in numbers, our state’s capacity to positively affect the triple bottom line (economy, environment, social responsibility) will only grow larger, which should make renewable energy development a policy priority moving forward.

Written by Diego Atencio

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The Annual Renewable Energy Roundup

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend look no further! The Annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair is this Saturday and Sunday, September 29th and 30th in Fredericksburg. The festival highlights the latest eco-friendly technologies, green energy sources, and environmentally conscious products for our daily lives. It’s two full days of great speakers, demonstrations, and exhibits.

The event is completely family friendly. There is even a build-your-own RC solar car race for all ages, so bring the whole family for a weekend of fun!

The Roundup is being held at The Market Square, 101 West Main Street in Fredericksburg. Gates open at 9 AM and stay open until 6 PM on Saturday and 5 PM on Sunday. Please visit the Renewable Roundup Ticket Page for advanced tickets. For your convenience, you can also get them at the gate day-of.

For more information visit The Roundup Website. We hope to see you there!

Map of The Event Location- 101 W. Main Street

Cyrus Reed: Low-cost options vs. blackout scare tactics

The following editorial was originally published 16 September 2012 10:30 PM in the Dallas Morning News

In May, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said electrical generation resources would be tight again this summer, though probably sufficient, and would really start running low around 2014. Subsequently, the Public Utility Commission raised the maximum amount that electrical generators can charge the public at peak times of demand from $3,000 to $4,500 per megawatt-hour to make sure the juice keeps flowing and investors pour into Texas. Now it is considering raising the price again to $9,000 per megawatt-hour and even adding a California-style “capacity” market where generators would be paid for the capacity to produce energy, even when they aren’t actually producing energy, as a way to ensure sufficient resources.
That’s right: Our appointed commissioners are proposing to raise energy prices on homeowners and businesses and pay generators just in case they are needed in order to change market conditions and encourage new investments. But before authorizing an increase in electricity prices or changing our energy-only market, the PUC and other state leaders should look at quick, low-cost options that lower demand at peak times through energy-efficiency programs, solar power and greener buildings.
During two periods last year — a particularly cold February morning and a couple of hot August afternoons — Texas came close to blackouts because there was barely enough juice in the system to keep our heaters and air conditioners running. Now the average consumer’s electric bill could go up by as much as $40 a month.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, there is plenty of electricity to go around, but the PUC is proposing big, expensive changes for the two or three days a year when there might be a problem. Instead, we should focus on programs that will actually reduce demand at peak times.

First, the PUC and ERCOT should change market rules to allow “demand response” — reducing our energy use at peak times by shifting our energy use — to actually get paid by bidding into the market. Essentially, with some rule changes and new software, ERCOT could actually take bids from commercial and industrial entities and even whole neighborhoods that agree to turn down their use of air conditioning or shift their industrial production at peak time.

Second, the PUC must expand required utility energy-efficiency programs. In 2011, the governor signed a bill that requires the state’s nine investor-owned utilities to promote saving energy through energy-efficiency programs, including measures like rebates for new insulation or efficient air conditioners. Since 1999, efficiency programs sponsored by these utilities have reduced demand by 1,365 megawatts — about the size of a large coal plant. Expanding this extremely successful law will reduce energy use and save money.

Third, Texas should adopt new minimum energy codes for new residential and commercial buildings just as Houston has done. The State Energy Conservation Office is now taking public input on whether the state should increase minimum standards from the current 2009 code to the 2012 codes developed nationally. The Energy Systems Laboratory at Texas A&M has analyzed the new codes, and their analysis shows that an average home built in Texas with updated building codes would save up to 40 percent in total energy use and reduce peak demand by up to 18 percent.

Finally, the PUC should implement a law that has been on the books for seven years now — requiring those serving loads to expand their use of renewable energy from sources other than wind like solar and geothermal by at least 500 megawatts by 2015 and consider setting a larger goal of 3,000 megawatts by 2025. Solar helps meet peak demand because it is exactly at the hottest time of the summer when solar power is most beneficial.

Before the PUC raises the price of everyone’s electricity bills to make it more profitable to build new power plants that we’ll only need a few days per year, let’s instead consider these more cost-effective ways to actually save energy and keep our homes cool over the next two years.

Cyrus Reed is the acting chapter director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and may be contacted at cyrus.reed@sierraclub.org.

Clean Energy Works for Texas Campaign Launches Effort to Boost Solar and Geothermal Power in Texas Coalition Asks for New Public Utility Commission Rules

DALLAS, TX – A coalition of environmental, public health, and labor groups launched the Clean Energy Works for Texas campaign today with a filing to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Texas.  The expanded Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard passed in 2005, helping launch the booming Texas wind industry that is currently providing 10% of the state’s electricity. Importantly, the law also intended for a portion of the mandated renewables to come from non-wind sources, such as solar and geothermal. To date, the PUC has taken no action to implement this portion of the law. Today’s filing by the Coalition asks the PUC to open a rule-making process within 60 days to help kick start utility scale solar and geothermal energy in Texas.

“While wind energy has taken off and provided thousands of jobs to Texans, the PUC has so far taken no action to implement the non-wind provisions, which leaves solar and geothermal power behind. Solar and geothermal power are clean, abundant, and don’t rely on our precious water resources to generate electricity. With a push from the PUC, the rest of the state could experience the same economic boom that wind energy has brought to West Texas. Our filing today asks the PUC to take the final step in fully implementing  the renewable portfolio standard. Solar and geothermal are important to meet Texas’s reliability needs and protect our water resources,” said Dr. Al Armendariz, Senior Campaign Representative with Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club, Public Citizen Texas, Progress Texas, the SEED Coalition, and the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance jointly filed the petition to the Public Utilities Commission, which will now require the PUC to open a rulemaking docket within 60 days. For the law to be fully implemented and for utilities and small businesses to begin developing solar and geothermal resources, the PUC Commissioners must approve a rule that requires those selling energy to invest in these clean energy resources. Under the RPS, utilities are required to develop 500 megawatts of non-wind renewable energy by 2015, but without the PUC, the law is not fully implemented and utilities are not moving forward.

“Texas can’t rest on the laurels of our success in the wind industry,” said Cathy Chickering of the SMU Geothermal Laboratory.  “Just like a financial portfolio, our energy portfolio must take advantage of Texas’ wealth of renewable energy sources – geothermal energy can power our homes and businesses reliably around the clock, while building on the very real synergy that the oil and gas industry can bring to the table.  Leveraging their existing investment and expertise for geothermal projects will bring new clean energy employment opportunities to Texans.”

Renewable energy is creating jobs and growing the economy in Texas. Texas wind has created more than 7,000 jobs with more than $140 million in local tax revenues, and the development of solar and geothermal resources can create more. While publicly-owned utilities like CPS Energy and Austin Energy have made significant progress in pursuing solar projects, research shows that a statewide goal of 2,000 megawatts of solar will create more than 21,500 manufacturing and installation jobs.

“The clean energy economy presents Texans with our modern day Spindletop moment,” said David Cortez, with the Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance, a partnership between business, community, labor, and environmental organizations. “We’ve named our campaign Clean Energy Works for Texas because that is a true statement – Texas workers will power this state with clean energy. The non-wind RPS doesn’t pick winners and losers, instead, it provides a clear market signal for much-needed investments in reliable, affordable energy generation. Investors from all over the world will see the potential in investing in clean renewable Texan energy with action by the PUC.”

According to a report by the Brattle Group, adding 1,000 to 5,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power would reduce wholesale energy prices, which result in savings for the retail consumer. Wholesale prices are highest during periods of peak demand, when sources like solar photovoltaic are most productive.

“Renewable energy will be critical for making sure Texas is energy-secure,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith with Public Citizen Texas. “Coastal wind made the difference when record-high temperatures in August 2011 sent electricity demand through the roof and fossil fuel generation couldn’t keep up. More and more, we’re seeing clean, renewable energy serve peak demand. Renewables will only become more important to meet Texas’s energy needs – the PUC needs to take the first step to implement the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.”

“The PUC, ERCOT, and other agencies take reliability concerns seriously. Implementing the non-wind portfolio standard will be critical to protecting electric reliability,” said Cyrus Reed, Acting Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “In addition to solar and geothermal, demand response is the critical third piece. We can tap our resources to generate more electricity, but reducing our demand through smart technology must happen too. This is about giving energy customers more choices and opportunities to reduce their demand and move toward cleaner forms of energy. “

Organizations signed on to the legal petition include: Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Texas Bluegreen Apollo Alliance, Clean Water Action, North Texas Renewable Energy Group, North Texas Renewable Energy Inc., Progress Texas, Environment Texas, Seed Coalition, Solar Austin, Solar San Antonio, Texas Campaign for the Environment and Texas Pecan Alliance.

SAVE THE DATE: September 29th-30th The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is Back!

Renewable Roundup 2012!

At a Glance…

WHAT?!?!: The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is a sustainability symposium centered around green living, alternative energy education, family festivities, and sustainable lifestyle practices for our future. This event wouldn’t be complete without it’s A-list of Guest Speakers, Hands-on Workshops, Eco-friendly Vendors, Progressive Exhibitors, Tasty Food Demonstrators, and Supportive Sponsors.

WHERE?!?!: Fredricksburg, Texas

WHEN?!?!: The last weekend in September. Saturday September 29th 9:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday September 30th 9:00am- 5:00pm

HOW?!?!: For more information on how to get involved with the Roundup as a either a participant or patron, visit http://theroundup.org/.

WHO?!?!: Everyone and anyone is invited! We encourage all individuals and families to come out to this great event looking to learn about sustainable living practices. This event is proudly brought to you by a joint effort from TREIA, Texas Center for Policy Studies, and The Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Learn How, Here!

In Depth…

DETAILS/ARTICLE: 

Great News!  The annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will be taking place again this year in the beautiful and historical town Fredericksburg, Texas! Organized by the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association, in collaboration with the Texas Center for Policy Studies and the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, Renewable Roundup is a collaborative event centered around individuals, organizations, and companies passionate about sustainable living.  The event planning committee is working hard on making this year’s show the best ever. The underlining theme of this weekend event strives to promote cleaner and smarter ways of using our resources while educating the public about “Greener” lifestyles and options. This event serves as both a conference and festival, as it enlightens, entertains, and publicizes those interested in a brighter greener future. We would love to have you at this extraordinary event the 4th weekend in September (Sept. 29 &30). Please check out our website http://www.theroundup.org/ to find out more or contact Event Coordinator Laura Rice at info@theroundup.org.

INVOLVEMENT:

  • Attend!
  • Apply to be a Guest Speaker
  • Host a workshop the Friday before the gates open on Saturday morning
  • Reserve a booth or exhibit space to advertise and or promote a sustainable idea or product
  • Advertise
  • Sponsor the event
  • Volunteer at the event
  • Come to the VIP kick-off party Friday evening

Can’t Wait to See Everyone There! 🙂

-Danya Gorel Sierra Club Intern

~Special Thanks to Mentor and Conservation Director Cyrus Reed~

There’s no Drought About It: Lack of Rain in Texas Stirs Energy Concerns

In the society that we live in today, there are many figures and aspects that would just not be the same or function orderly without its dependent partner. Bonnie and Clyde, Batman and Robin, Brooks and Dunn, Abbott and Costello, and even PB& J are a few well-acclaimed ones that come to mind. Who would’ve ever thought that energy and water could be coupled together along with the other previous examples mentioned? Well the truth of the matter is that power plants require thousands of gallons of water a day to cool off their systems. And with the combination of the atrocious hot summers in Texas and the recent droughts occurring in the region, issues have arisen to the surface dealing with these situations and their consequences.

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello

Last Thursday, Texas Coalition for Water,Energy and Economic Security hosted a legislative briefing that took place at the capitol in Austin addressing energy and water issues. Guest speakers Dr. Gammon, Dr. King, Mark Armentrout, Cris Eugster and Kevin Tuerff all spoke about these concerns and issues as well as vocalized their solutions.

As the leadoff man, Dr. Gammon opened up the briefing by touching up on his forte climatology and how the local drought has taken a toll on Texas. Although Dr. Gammon offered some sign of relief when he claimed that we should not see the same drought of summer 2011 soon, he did add that there are still severe droughts ahead of us. Dr. King, Research Associate, Center for International Energy, stressed on how critical water is to power plants and that water rights in the region need to be more clear-cut. Dr. King shared his personal short-term goals, which were to have more education and conservation plans. He also proposed his long-term solution of implementing more renewable fuels such as wind and solar considering they don’t necessarily require cooling.

Mark Armentrout, former ERCOT board chairman, and Cris Eugster, Executive Vice-President of CPS Energy followed up on the briefing by adding their own separate opinions about the dilemma of energy and water.  Armentrout spoke about smart grid applications, which would allow people to see their electric cost data from their house. He also underlined the effects of rolling blackouts including the monetary side of it. According to Mr. Armentrout, the United States loses close to 80 billion dollars a year from rolling blackouts.

Einstein Bros Bagel store in Texas temporarily closed due to rolling blackouts in the area.

Being the Executive Vice-President of CPS energy, Cris Eugster offered confidence that increasing energy efficiency and implementing more renewable projects are well within hands reach. Eugster stated that CPS energy, a utility company in San Antonio, is the number one utility in Texas in terms of wind power and water utility efficiency in the state.  In fact, CPS energy recently signed on to a project that is expected to result in 400 megawatts of solar energy. Eugster also added that San Antonio uses about the same amount of energy as they did twenty years ago even with the dramatic population change. Kevin Terff, President of EnviroMedia, capped off the briefing by speaking about conservation education and behavior change. Mr. Terff primarily touched on the fact that people would conserve more if they understood the education and basic logistics behind it. According to a study by Terff, 3/4 of Texans didn’t know the natural source of water coming from their homes.

When bringing it all together, their combined consensus revolved around creating goals including increasing energy efficiency, pursuing and investing more into renewable energy as well as creating a stronger energy and water conscious community. Taking accountability in these goals will help put us in the right direction.

Related Links :Energy-Water Nexus in Texas, Trends and Policy Issues For The Nexus of Energy and Water, Social Impacts of Climate on Texas, Public Utility Commission Conservation Alerts, TexasEfficiency.com, CEE.org

– Jarred Garza, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Intern

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.