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.



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