Tag Archives: Wind Energy

ERCOT sets another wind power record… yet again

Wind power keeps helping meet Texas’ electricity needs. Last week, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees Texas’s electricity grids and markets for about 80% of the state, reported that wind power set a record on Wednesday evening, March 26, when instantaneous output reached a record 10,296 megawatts (MW) at 8:48 p.m. 

At that time, wind generation was providing about 30 percent of the 35,768 MW of electricity being used on the ERCOT grid. The new record beats the previous record set earlier this month by more than 600 MWs. Of the total generation at the time, 1,433 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 8,863 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed, as authorized by the Texas Legislature. 

“When Texas first approved a Renewable Portfolio Standard in 1999, no one could have imagined Texas wind topping 10,000 MWs in instantaneous use less than 15 years later,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter. “The even better news is even after meeting the RPS goals ten years early, wind developers continue to build new capacity throughout the state. The transition to clean energy is happening right before our eyes.” 

 

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Humans vs. Earth’s Climate: Preparing for Battle

When I first heard the phrase “climate change”, I, like many others, was undecided on the matter and really didn’t have a clue what that phrase was supposed to mean. Should I be scared? I hope the daily climate would change all the time over here in Texas. This confusion led to a trip to the internet, where ignorance is optional, and over time I read a lot about it, trying to avoid opinionated rants while relying on credible sources of information to mold my perception of the truth. I found myself studying the carbon cycle, reading those really long and uninteresting scientific papers, and watching documentaries such as Chasing Ice, where a scientist captures glaciers in motion through time lapsed photography as they recede and disappear. I really dove in. The deeper I dove the more evidence came to support the notion that earth’s climate system is changing and our planet is slowly warming in a way that will likely be detrimental if not dealt with.

the blue marble

Home Sweet Home

What a massive and complex force to have to deal with. Trying to mitigate a change in the Earth’s climate seems like a pretty daunting feet. So, how do we solve this problem? I guess the default answer would be, “to find the solution.” However, I believe “the solution” needs to be rephrased with “many solutions, collaboratively recognized and implemented worldwide.” A major part of this solution needs to face one of the most influential causes of climate change, such as our current escalated contribution of greenhouse gases (GHG’s), namely carbon dioxide and methane, to the atmosphere.

Explanation of Green House Gases (GHG’s):

GHG’s, when in higher concentration in the atmosphere, cause the atmosphere to trap more and more of the sun’s energy, resulting in the warming of our planet.

Nasa's explanation of GHG's

Nasa’s explanation of GHG’s

This process becomes worrisome when you consider that the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere has increased by more than 35% since 1975 and is at an 800,000 year high. Even more worrisome is the fact that, according to the National Research Council, “the average temperature of Earth’s surface increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit  over the past one hundred years with 1 degree of this warming occurring over just the past three decades.”

So if this is really happening, how do we stop it? Well, one could start with the major source of this greenhouse gas concentration increase, which can be attributed primarily to the growth in carbon dioxide emissions from rapid expansion of fossil fuel burning. Other attributing factors include deforestation and land use and land cover changes.

Explanation of fossil fuel burning’s role in the carbon cycle:

Previous plant and animal remains trapped within geological structures in places all over the world, along with millions of years of heat and pressure, have created reservoirs of natural gas, oil, and coal. These reservoirs, in the form of hydrocarbons (long chains of Hydrogen and Carbon), have been stored sources of Carbon for a great amount of time. When these reservoirs are extracted and undergo a combustion reaction, they produce energy in the form of heat with new chemical species being formed, such as carbon dioxide (a green house gas).

I’m fascinated by our capability to discover these remains of ancient life forms and even more so at our ability to use them to meet the present day needs of our energy-reliant society. However, with a global oil production of 83.6 million barrels a day in 2011, this Carbon which has been stored underground for an extremely long amount of time is now being released into our system at a rapid rate… so would the statement, “too much of a good thing, is a bad thing” apply here?

I understand that the burning of fossil fuels is integral to our way of life and energy needs. The intricacy and complications of making rapid emission cuts would have great impacts for our infrastructure and societies. However, the likely effects of climate change/global warming could have even greater, more damaging, impacts on our infrastructure and societies. This is why it is necessary to confront this issue now and progress towards a greater reliance on renewable energy for our present and future energy needs.

This progression is much easier said than done and will undoubtedly be met with great opposition, especially by those involved in fossil fuel energy production (people like my mom). However, I like to perceive it as simply as one of my favorite environmental quotes, “if you get to the cliff, you can take one step forward or turn 180 degrees and take a step forward”.

For one, we’ve already discovered, engineered, and implemented many new means of capturing energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass), all of which are readily available in specific regions, produce nearly no emissions, and are, except for hydroelectric, far less water intensive. We already have a large part of the solution, all we need is implementation. More positive progression was initiated this week as President Obama, leader of a nation that ranks as a close second place behind China in GHG emissions and energy consumption, made a speech that presented some bold, progressive goals: using full authority of the clean air act of 1970 to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, accelerating the implementation of more renewable energy that will “power 6 million homes by 2020”, and reducing energy waste through new energy efficiency. He also is trying to push congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies to invest in  “the clean energy economies that will fuel our future” and is calling for initiatives to prepare for the inevitable future effects of climate change.

Implementation of these plans will take time, will require governmental initiatives to speed up the process, and will require specific measures to alleviate the negative impacts such change will have on certain individuals. An example of governmental measures to take would be to reduce the massive amount of money that is used to subsidize fossil fuel production and to allocate that money to renewable energy implementation. To alleviate this energy production shift on individuals, retiring fossil fuel companies will need to provide a just transition for its employees: examples include a large preliminary warning, new training, and good retirement packages.

It’s very exciting that the willingness and need to change has been stated by one of the world’s most influential people, but the battle has only yet to begin and many other solutions will need to be presented and implemented if we hope to come out on top. However, optimism is reborn from the depressing ashes of climate change talk as I reflect on how incredibly smart we are as a human race, how much we already know about the issue, and our amazing problem-solving abilities and can’t help but think, this is going to be a good fight.

Written by: Chase Cobb

Rally for Renewables in Austin

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside AUstin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside Austin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

Last week, members and volunteers with Sierra Club showed their support at the Rally for Renewables outside of Austin’s City Hall. The event was part of the Beyond Coal Campaign to reduce dependence upon coal burning and increase utilization of wind and solar energy. Why are dirty coal plants a continuing issue in the 21st century? The focus, or heart,  of the rally is to encourage Austin’s mayor and city council to retire the Fayette Power Project and be coal free. The emphasis here is on retire vs selling the plant off and “greenwash” the city into a state of coal free energy. Retiring the plant would ensure the end of the devastating effects the burning of coal from this plant has on our environment. Below are some quick facts to help everyone understand the importance of relieving us of our dependence upon burning coal.

Coal plants are our nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Burning coal is also a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution. These emissions of toxins into our environment leads to various forms of climate change.  Various forms of pollution includes: Mercury, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and Ash.

Toxic Mercury  is released into our atmosphere and then returns to the surface via rain and enters our streams and rivers. Prolonged exposure to Mercury can lead to numerous neurological and heart damaging conditions. An uncontrolled power plant can emit approximately 170 pounds of Mercury ash per year.

Coal plants are the leading source of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) pollution. An uncontrolled power plant can produce up to 14,000 tons of SO2 per year. SO2 accumulation in the atmosphere causes acid rain which leads to the destruction of crops, forests,  and soils, and acidifies our lakes and streams.

Nitrogen Oxide causes ground level smog. An uncontrolled plant can emit over 10,000 tons of Nitrogen Oxides per year. This pollutant is naturally found in the atmosphere, however, human activities such as agriculture, transportation, and industries have been steadily increasing the amount found in the atmosphere.

U.S. Nitrous Oxide Emissions, By Source:

In the US alone, we produce no less than 140 million tons of coal ash pollution. All of that ash has to go somewhere, and in most cases it is dumped in the backyard of these coal plants. This ash can be put into open-air pits or into man-made ponds. Unregulated dump sites can leach these pollutants into the ground and potentially into our ground water systems, by way of aquifers.

Overall, The Rally for Renewables was a success! Numerous volunteers came out to show their support for the cause. The event lasted for nearly 2 hours with many different community members making appearances. This event, just like any like it, is an important demonstration to our local governments. As citizens of this earth, we have the right to have our voices heard, just as they were last week.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

ERCOT announces more gains for Renewable Energy

ERCOT recently announced that renewable energy electricity sales in 2012 in the Texas market grew by some seven percent, with a gain of more than 15 percent in total capacity of those resources. A total of at least 13,000 MWs of renewable capacity was found in Texas in 2012. The announcement continues the growth of wind energy in Texas — which now equals about nine percent of total demand — but also signals the recent investment in solar energy, which more than quadrupled its use in Texas. 

The full announcement can be found here, but here are a couple of nice little charts showing total capacity and energy of renewables in Texas. 

 

Renewable energy reported

Fuel Type

2012 (MWh)

2011 (MWh)

Increase (%)

Biomass

288,988

137,004

110

Hydro

389,196

267,113

45

Landfill gas

537,966

497,645

8

Solar

133,642

36,580

265

Wind

32,566,009

30,769,674

5

Total

33,915,802

31,708,016

7

 

 

Capacity registered in Texas REC program*

Fuel Type

2012 (MW)*

2011 (MW)

2010 (MW)

2009 (MW)

Biomass

232

132

108

40

Hydro

33

33

33

33

Landfill gas

95

92

88

80

Solar

81

70

21

1

Wind

12,667

10,961

10,265

9,915

Total

13,108*

11,288

10,515

10,069

*Does not include generation in service prior to September 1999. Totals differ due to rounding.

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

More Than 3,000 Texans Call on Reps. Canseco and Farenthold to Save Texas Wind Jobs

Contact: Dave Cortez, Texas BlueGreen Alliance
Davec@bluegreenalliance.org,  512-736-7600

More Than 3,000 Texans Call on
Reps. Canseco and Farenthold to Save Texas Wind  Jobs

WHO:
Dave Cortez – Emcee, Coordinator at Texas BlueGreen Alliance
Jeff Clark – Executive Director, The Wind Coalition
Jeff Neves – Project Developer, American Shoreline Inc.

WHAT: Teleconference on benefits of wind production tax credit in Texas

WHEN: Thursday, October 11th, 11AM CT

CALL INFO: 1-866-501-6174
code: 317-0874-1892
*Spanish speakers available for quotes*

With help from the federal wind energy production tax credit, Texas has become a national leader in wind energy and wind jobs. The Production Tax Credit helps level the energy playing field between fossil fuels and renewables, and has been a key engine in the huge growth of the wind industry over the past decade. The wind industry currently supports more than 75,000 jobs across the country, including over 7,000 here in Texas.  If the PTC is not renewed by the end of the year, an estimated 37,000 jobs will be lost.

As a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report stated, “Current energy tax policy is the result of prior policy action undertaken in an effort to achieve the nation’s long-standing goal of enhancing U.S. energy security.  For example, the promotion of domestic fossil fuel production, the current principle short-run strategy, was a central tenet of energy tax policy from 1918 through the late 1960s” (Sherlock and Crandall-Hollick, September 2012).

In addition, U.S. government support for oil, natural gas, and coal has totaled over $500 billion from 1950 to 2006 according to Management Information Services Incorporated. Some of these incentives have been permanent fixtures of the tax code for decades, whereas the PTC has been periodically extended on a short-term basis since 1992.

List of key wind projects in CD 23
Anacacho Wind Farm (Near Uvalde)
Desert Sky Wind Project (CPS Energy purchases power from here)
Sherbino Wind Farms (BP owned)
Woodward Mountain Wind Ranch

List of key wind projects in CD 27
Palo Alto West Wind Farm (Proposed for construction in Nueces County, projected $3 million annual tax revenue)
Papalote Wind Farm (Near Taft, Texas)
Magic Valley Wind Farm (Willacy County)

South Texas wind farms awaiting fate of energy tax credit
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/news/2012/10/01/south-texas-wind-farms-awaiting-fate.html

AWEA Factsheet
http://www.awea.org/learnabout/publications/factsheets/upload/2Q-12-Texas-2.pdf

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.”