Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Texas has Set a New Record in Wind Energy

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) just released a statement saying that wind turbines in the service territory of ERCOT- Electric Reliability Council of Texas- this is the main Texas electric grid- set a new output record on Oct. 7, 2011. That afternoon, wind generated 15.2% of ERCOT's demand for electricity that afternoon, or 7,400 megawatts (MW).

Here is Goggins statement on behalf of the AWEA.

"This new record set by wind on the main Texas grid is good news for consumers. Wind generation offsets the use of expensive fossil fuels, is pollution-free, and uses virtually no water, unlike other sources of electricity."

 Let me interrupt here a moment and be boorish.

Fossil fuels are much more expensive than wind, but power generation by wind is more expensive than power generation by fossil fuel. Of course, you take into account back end subsidies for fossil fuels and include the health costs of breathing in the smoke-  the expense of energy production by fossil fuel goes up.  Maybe I was being too nit-picky.

Wind is clean and it certainly does not  require water. Fossil fuel combustion to drive turbines is a water intensive operation. Water is a huge resource challenge right now- it just hasn't popped up on the radar as much. You might have noticed that there is a water bond proposition to raise billions of dollars for water resource development on the Texas ballet in November.

Sorry for that interruption. We return now to Goggins statement.

"Moreover, this is yet another case showing that large amounts of wind energy can be integrated into existing utility systems reliably.

"Texas is already the national leader in wind power. The number of wind turbines and wind farms there and in other windy states across America is continuing to grow and shows the success of stable federal tax policies, starting with the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy."

"Wind power is delivering cheap electricity to ratepayers in hard economic times, and it's hard to overstate the benefits of that far-sighted tax policy."

"According to ERCOT, wind energy "represents nearly 58 percent of all new generation seen in planning stages over the next few years" in Texas."

The statement ends with an attribution to AWEA is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America.

OK, I get the final word here.

More power to the AWEA and congratulations to Texas. We have a spirit for getting things done here. Wind farms are big projects that touch a lot of different people and government agencies. In many states, issues create friction and slow down wind development. This is not bad or good necessarily. I am just pointing out that when Texas wants to get something done, it gets done.

Wind is more difficult to integrate into our power structure because it varies across the day and this makes the process of balancing power and power demand more difficult. This is in sharp contract to a thermal power plant where you just have a big gas peddle and just push it as much as you want for as long as you want. Of course, the actual process for starting and speeding up a thermal plant is more complex than that and so varying thermal production to match well with a variable wind resource makes power production a dynamic challenge

This is a key reason for the attention paid to smart metering. Smart metering holds the potential for more accurately tracking individual loads across the day in TX and getting a more accurate picture of real time demand.

But wind is certainly a much cleaner investment than the dangerous combustion particles falling on Texans and on our fellow Americans to the East. You might wonder why our coal plants are on the Eastern border of Texas. This is because the prevailing winds take our poisons and dump them out of Texas. This is not good policy as a neighbor. It is not a sustainable policy for Texans wanting to deliver a better and cleaner Texas to our children.

So wind production is good.

OK, Lets Veer off in a Whole New Direction. 

Wind energy is not a good option in your back yard. Wind is particularly fickle. They put wind farms where the wind blows consistently with speed and duration. At your house here in North Texas- you do not get consistent wind that will make your investment pay off. On top of inconsistent wind,  you do not have the vertical space to reach undisturbed air. No matter what the brochure says. No matter what the passionate sales person says.

We love to save energy. We love renewable energy. But we are hard-nosed and stuff has to make economic sense. Wind in the local neighborhood is a bust- compounded at least twice. Just say no.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dealing with What Can We Do?

The world as we knew it, has been pulled apart. Many things we believed in, have been proven vulnerable...
  • the value of our home would shrink?
  • who would have guessed General Motors would need a government bailout?
  • who foresaw whole industries drying up?
And millions of Americans have lost jobs and don't know when the next one is coming along. Last week the news was employers were telling the unemployed they need not apply for new job openings. That would really make you feel warm and loved, wouldn't it?

And American values have changed. Baby boomers no longer set the cultural attitudes. All these occurrences- all these earth rocking shifts in attitude, all come together to disrupt the nice and cozy status quo. Many Americans are shell shocked by these changes.

This kind of news impacts us as individuals and as communities as a whole. Imagine living in Detroit and a new pass time is hunting possums in the run down suburbs. People are eating possom belly again.

The actual problems are impacted by our attitudes. How much of our economic problems are caused by a loss of confidence in ourselves and in how we see the future economy? Students of history wonder whether we are suffering the same types of chronic economic malaise that afflicted the world after the 1929 stock market crash. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt that suggested that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".

Politicians and cable TV don't help any. Politicians are typically self-serving and fear is a power tool most are willing to wield even if it is not so good for the rest of the country. And if cable TV isn't stirring up controversy- the equivalent of chasing fire engines on a national level- it would certainly impact their corporate bottom line.

I have a point here. The world has changed. Unsettling forces have changed the world. It will be for the better eventually but right now we are caught in transition and the transition is painful.

Here is a personal challenge for you.

We need leaders. We need men and women with vision. There is a place for you as a leader or as a follower. Where would you like to fit into the solution?

There are a lot of spirited folks here is Texas digging in build new prosperity. There has been a lot of change but change opens up new opportunities. High prices of energy give us great opportunities to grow the economy by helping people save energy in homes, and businesses, and manufacturing facilities.

Every obstacle we see... when we get a clearer look- will look like opportunity.

Steve Jobs, god rest his soul, gave a great speech at Stanford. One of his points was about connecting the dots. We look back to connect the dots, but progress is made by moving forward and you do not really know how the dots might connect. But you keep moving forward- being curious- listen and participating- and success will come and the dots will connect later.

Times are tough. It is a great time to get busy, talk to people, listen, get to work and learn persistence and build character. Lets get it done. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.