Source: Earth Techling
This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.
As we highlighted a few weeks back, Texas is on a new path to accelerating its clean, renewable energy economy. The opening of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) now enables more West and Panhandle wind turbines to fuel the state’s major metropolises, and the completion of the project couldn’t come soon enough.
A number of companies are looking to grow and invest in Texas, thanks to its plentiful, clean wind power. Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass are leading the charge and signing long-term agreements to purchase Texas wind energy. These contracts lock in considerable revenue for the state and guarantee Texas’ ranking as the number one wind-producing state in the nation. In fact, West Texas wind has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and all other fuel sources that supply the grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In September, Google added to its growing stock of renewable energy by purchasing the entire output of a 240-megawatt wind farm (enough energy to power 84,000 homes) outside Amarillo to power its Oklahoma data center. Late in November, Microsoft signed a 20-year contract to purchase all of the energy from a 110-megawatt wind farm outside Fort Worth to power its San Antonio data center. And BBVA Compass recently signed a 10-year agreement with Choice! Energy Services, a Houston-based retail energy broker, to power its Texas branches exclusively with wind and solar energy. Read More
As we approach the end of 2013, Texas’ power grid is soon to embark on a new clean energy path. While most people don’t get too excited about electrical transmission and distribution lines, the much awaited Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project– set to come online in a few weeks and roll out through 2014 – could be the exception.
Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in 2008, CREZ is a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power – 18,500 megawatts of power to be exact. This is enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent.
Much like some other wind-rich regions in the country, wind in the West and Panhandle regions of Texas was partially unused, or curtailed, because local communities could not use all of the available supply and the state’s current, outmoded electric grid could not efficiently deliver the abundant energy to high-demand eastern cities. This "congestion" bottleneck forced wind farms to lower prices and at times pay the utilities to take their electricity. Read More
What do you do when a major new customer arrives in town asking for renewable energy? You supply it. Facebook’s decision to locate a new data center in Iowa and supply that data center with 100% wind energy is a great example of a company using its clout for good. To show its seriousness of intent, Facebook simultaneously pursued development rights to two wind parcels, one in Iowa and Nebraska, alongside its traditional site evaluation for a new data center. Iowa won the new data center, in no small part due to its leadership in the wind sector.
According to Vincent Van Son, Facebook’s Data Center Energy Manager, “When we settled on Altoona as the location for our fourth data center, one of the deciding factors was the opportunity to help develop a new wind project in the state. The project brings additional investment and jobs to the region, and in effect it makes it possible, on an annualized basis, for 100% of our energy needs to be met entirely with one of Iowa’s most abundant renewable resources.” Facebook worked with a local developer, RPM Access, and then at a key point, transferred ownership to a major utility, Mid-American. This project enabled Facebook to announce last week that the new data center will be supplied by 100% renewable energy.
As we profiled last year with Collaborative Economics, Iowa views the wind sector as a powerful economic development driver. As a result, it has emerged as an epicenter of wind in all facets – installations, innovation and manufacturing strength. Iowa’s multi-pronged clean energy strategy continues to deliver economic wins in 2013. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
It’s easy for Americans to laugh at Donald Trump when he goes off on a rant, like when he joined the birthers during the last presidential election. But when Trump starts picking fights with other countries, and wind energy, it’s just embarrassing. As environmentalists and global citizens we feel the need to offer the world an apology for Trump’s attempt to blackmail Scotland, as the country attempts to spur economic growth, cleaner air and a safer climate.
Several years ago, the real estate tycoon took his personality parade to Scotland, where he fought local environmentalists for approval to build a luxury golf resort on a pristine section of the nation’s northeast coast. Now, because it will affect the view from his golf club, Trump’s begun a fierce legal battle over Scotland’s plans to install offshore wind turbines near his property.
To fully appreciate Trump’s hypocrisy, it’s worth exploring some of the story’s background. Back in 2007, when Trump sought approval for construction of the Trump International Golf Links, he promised more than 900 high-end condos, 500 luxury homes, a huge hotel and two 18-hole golf courses. The project, Trump said, would attract over a billion dollars of investment and generate more than 4,000 full time construction jobs and 1,200 full-time jobs. Read More
Ohio’s clean energy standards have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting the state’s carbon footprint. Recently, these standards have come under attack and EDF’s own Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President of Smart Power, stepped up to defend them by testifying before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission on Senate Bill 58 (S.B. 58). As a former Ohio Public Utility Commissioner herself, Roberto made it clear that S.B. 58 would destroy Ohio’s clean energy standards and unjustly enrich the state’s electric utilities.
Ohio adopted clean energy standards in 2008, and is one of 29 states with a renewable energy standard and one of 25 states with an energy efficiency standard. Based on these standards, Ohio will acquire 12.5% of its power by renewable energy and will reduce its energy use by 22% by 2025. The energy efficiency standard has allowed Ohio to reduce its energy use by over 3%, and the renewable energy standard has already added 466 mw of wind energy in the state, enough to power 466,000 homes. Ohio is now ranked fourth in the nation for wind energy jobs, with over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs supported by the industry.
Credit: Julia Collins
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, is leading a nationwide effort to repeal state clean energy standards, including S.B. 58 in Ohio. ALEC has previously supported controversial “stand your ground” laws as well as laws classifying environmental civil disobedience as terrorism. To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Texas Clean Air Matter blog.
Source: Architect Magazine
The Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges colleges across the nation to design and construct efficient, affordable and attractive solar powered-home, is taking place October 3-13 at Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, California. The bi-annual event, organized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), awards the team that excels in combining cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal and energy efficiency into a state of the art home. But like many competitions, the real winners are those that pursue the challenge long after the bout ends, and this decathlon is no exception. Year after year, students graduate and form the next wave of clean energy entrepreneurs, engineers and architects looking to advance energy efficient homes.
This year, the University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College have joined forces to create Team Texas. The last time a Texas university participated in the Solar Decathlon was in 2007, when the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University competed as two separate teams.
This year Team Texas has submitted ADAPT, a house that reflects the nature of the two universities’ homestead, El Paso. Its design maximizes the use of solar energy, an abundant resource in the Southwest, and is meant to feel natural on a mountain plateau, high desert or green farmland. ADAPT embraces the belief that “a home is not just a location or state of mind but a place where the heart is”. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Texas Clean Air Matters blog.
With Labor Day behind us, Texans can look forward to a welcome respite from the hundred-degree days of August. The pending arrival of fall may signal milder temperatures for now, but the latest report from John Nielson-Gammon, Texas’ state climatologist, tells a different story about Texas’ long-term climate trend. The study released last month indicates that peak summer temperatures may increase by up to five degrees by 2060. What we once thought of as a unique heat wave (think back to 2011) are likely to become the new normal, and will eventually – according to Nielson-Gammon – be replaced by even hotter temperatures.
At the same time, increasing temperatures would place further severe stress on the state’s energy and water systems. Texas’ recent extreme summers have already plunged much of the state into drought. The latest data released by the U.S. Drought Monitor predict water emergencies could occur in at least nine U.S. cities—five of which are in Texas. And experts expect the drought will persist for years to come as climate change intensifies.
Texas lawmakers must take these grim projections into account as they plan the state’s energy and water futures. Some Texas decision makers are already calling for more fossil-fuel power plants to cover the need for more power (to run all those air conditioners) in light of 2011’s historic summer highs, which will emit more carbon pollution into the air and add to the warming. These same Texas lawmakers insist we should keep our heads in the sand, ignore the mounting evidence pointing to a new climate normal and do nothing to alleviate or adapt to the problem. Read More
In an effort to gauge where America’s power grid stands, Washington D.C.-based group GridWise Alliance evaluated grid modernization in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Texas and California tied for first place—standing far above the next runner up.
So what makes Texas’ grid so special?
Texas restructured its electricity market in 1999, introducing competition into the retail electric market. The new competitive retail market gave most Texans a choice of electricity providers from dozens of companies, so these energy providers compete to offer the most advanced services. For example, Texans can opt for 100% renewable electricity from Green Mountain Energy.
Additionally, in an effort to update Texas’ electric grid, the Public Utility Commission, Texas’ governing body for electricity, passed a resolution prompting “wires companies”(the firms that deliver energy from power plants to homes and businesses) to invest in millions of smart meters. Smart meters can help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce peak energy demand (rush hour on the electrical wires) and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, such as wind and solar power, by managing energy demand and generation more efficiently.
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Texas Clean Air Matters Blog
Last week, the City of Houston announced that it would increase its purchase of renewable electricity to cover half of its energy use. The city will use almost 623,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from renewable sources per year—equivalent to the energy used by 55,000 residential homes annually. The purchase makes Houston the largest municipal buyer of renewable energy in the nation. While Houston’s latest renewable energy purchase may seem at odds with its reputation as an oil and gas hub, it’s exactly the sort of common-sense decision we expect from a city that’s touted as the energy capital of the nation.
Houston is in good company among other Texas cities. The City of Austin already gets 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. To make the switch, the city leveraged Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program, one of the nation’s most successful utility-sponsored and voluntary green-pricing programs. The program is part of Austin’s Climate Protection Plan, which establishes a 35 % renewable portfolio goal for Austin Energy by 2020. In San Antonio, the municipally owned CPS Energy has emerged as a leader in smart power. Through its New Energy Economy initiative, CPS Energy is growing its network of smart meters and expanding its installed solar capacity, among many other sustainable initiatives. Today, CPS Energy uses more solar energy than any other Texas utility, while still having the lowest electric rates among the top 10 largest cities in the United States. Read More
Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center
This week, the Texas Senate will likely debate House Bill (HB) 3390, introduced by Representative Harvey Hilderbran and sponsored by Senator Bob Deuell. This bill, which passed in the House and out of the Economic Development Senate Committee on May 14th, reauthorizes Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code – commonly known as the Texas Economic Development Act. Chapter 313 is an economic development program that allows companies to apply for a temporary reduction in property taxes in exchange for a major capital investment commitment.
Chapter 313 has helped put Texans to work and grow rural economies. Wind energy is among the industries that take advantage of this program and, in the process, has attracted around $24 billion in wind energy investments to 56 counties throughout the lone star state – $15 billion of which was a direct result of Chapter 313. Wind energy projects create new jobs and employ meteorologists, surveyors, structural engineers, assembly workers, electrical workers, construction workers, lawyers, bankers, technicians and local service jobs associated with increased growth.
However, Chapter 313 is set to expire in 2014. If the Texas Senate does not renew this crucial bill as is (with renewable energy projects included), then the state stands to lose its competitive advantage in attracting wind and solar development to the state – potentially losing projects to the 34 other states offering clean energy incentives. Some states don’t impose a property tax on wind projects at all.
Furthermore, including renewables in Chapter 313 helps growing school districts’ tax bases, which benefit from the substantial investment that wind energy projects bring to their communities. The expected 30+ year life span of these projects makes them lucrative municipal assets. Additionally, landowners in rural Texas receive lease payments for each turbine installed on their property. These infusions of capital help farmers and ranchers support their land, particularly during times of extreme drought. 95 percent of land used for wind turbines can still be used for agricultural purposes, allowing farmers and ranchers to benefit from a second harvest – of wind.