Category Archives: San Antonio

Air Emissions from Eagle Ford Oil and Gas Activity Expected to Quadruple over next Four Years

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Late last week, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) released a report outlining emission projections from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play, the most active drilling area in the country right now. Under the moderate drilling activity scenario, projections of air pollutants are expected to quadruple in the next four years. Even though this seems like a staggering prediction, it is likely an underestimation, given certain emissions are not accounted for in the inventory.

What does the report say?

The report assesses the emissions from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play and projects air pollution under three different development scenarios: low, moderate, and aggressive. Projections over the next several years indicate that we can expect substantial increases in smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ | Tagged , , | 1 Response

Is Texas the Next Global Leader in Water? It’s Up to State Leaders to Decide.

Source: WATR News

Source: WATR News

The Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, recently released the Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution, which proposes a sort of revolution to solve Texas’ water woes. As Combs notes, Texas is a global energy leader, but the state should be a global water leader too. And her initiative couldn’t come fast enough. Texas, already prone to cycles of drought, is facing new water pressures, including population growth and a changing economy, which only make it harder to preserve our diminishing water supply. To rouse the state’s water recovery plan, the report prioritizes water-saving technological innovations (while stressing the need for conservation) and lauds various Texas cities for water management practices. But the report misses some key elements that are essential to keeping our water flowing. In the same way that new energy technologies have brought us closer to a cleaner, more reliable electric grid, innovations in the water arena can seamlessly reduce our water use and set the state on a sustainable path.

The report says conservation is not enough, and it’s right. However, efficiency is the most significant first step and conservation achieved through technology is a welcome counter to the infrastructure-heavy plans typically heard at the Capitol and in the State Water Plan. (What good is a new reservoir, if there’s no water to put in it?) Some of the technologies evaluated in the report include aquifer storage and recovery, inter-basin transfers, low-water fracking technologies and desalinization – what some call “game changers.” These technologies could potentially relieve our future water woes, but these projects are expensive and don’t alleviate our immediate or even mid-term water stresses. Read More »

Also posted in Drought, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Utilities | Tagged | Comments closed

Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass Commit to Texas Wind Because It Makes Good Business Sense

Source: Earth Techling

Source: Earth Techling

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 »

Also posted in Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Community Colleges Play Key Role In Texas’ Clean Energy Economy

Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce.  And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.

In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.

Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More »

Also posted in Green Jobs, Houston, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind | Tagged | Comments closed

Regional Clean Air Coalitions Take The Next Step To Improve Air Quality

Last month, I highlighted some Texas cities working to educate their citizens on the importance of air quality. Because air pollution is a persistent problem throughout Texas, the state’s largest cities all maintain websites focusing on ways to mitigate emissions and take precautions when air pollution reaches concentrations considered to be unhealthy. While these informational campaigns promote voluntary reductions in emissions, they aren’t sufficient to keep air quality under control.

Regional coalitions all over the state are at the front line forging needed partnerships to achieve major emissions reductions and improve the quality of air across Texas. The following are a few organizing leading the effort: Read More »

Also posted in Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Houston, Ozone | Comments closed

Air Quality Websites: A Starting Place For Texas Public Outreach

Given that it’s July and we’re nearing the annual peak of ozone or “smog” season, our team wondered what public education and outreach efforts cities in Texas might be undertaking to raise air pollution awareness.

We started by looking at Texas cities’ websites. Overall, we were pleased to see the depth of information readily available for all citizens. Here’s a summary of what we found:

City of Arlington: Undoubtedly the largest city in North Texas, with a population of more than 350,000, Arlington provides its citizens with a “Cleaning Up Our Air” site, which includes facts on ground-level ozone, health implications and major air pollution sources, namely vehicles, industrial facilities, refineries and household products. The site lists 12 tips for how everyone can improve air quality.  It also outlines the steps the city has taken to reduce emissions, such as maintaining city vehicle tune-ups and routinely updating emission control equipment.

City of Austin: Texas’ capital, with more than 800,000 people, boasts an air quality page that includes a two-day ozone forecast and insight into how population growth is a major factor in increased ozone levels. The site provides a tutorial on the creation of ozone and tips on how to reduce emissions. These tips include less use of cars and trucks, limited engine idling, regular car tune-ups and more use of public transit.

City of Dallas: With more than 1.2 million people, the people of Dallas make up a sizeable portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which ranked eighth among the U.S. cities with the worst ozone levels. Dallas’ page offers basic information on ozone with links to the American Lung Association and to the state’s Air Pollution Watch.  What’s particularly helpful is the option to subscribe to ozone email alerts. Green Dallas, another city page dedicated to Dallas air quality offers tips on controlling air pollution, anti-idling ordinances, climate change, regional initiatives and more. It also cites ozone as the only air pollutant for which Dallas does not meet national air quality standards. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, Ozone | Tagged , | Comments closed

San Antonio Launches Clean Air Awareness Efforts

Dr. Joseph Dungan and his team from James Madison high school attended the forum and showed off their solar powered car.

If you haven’t heard already, San Antonio hosted its inaugural air quality forum this past week at the “Castle” headquarters of the socially conscious, innovative company Rackspace, and I felt fortunate to be an invited panelist at this groundbreaking event.

Mike Burke, chair and founder of the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum, and Scott Storment, executive director of Mission Verde Alliance, were leaders in developing the program, “Keeping It Clean: Our Air, Our Health,” to highlight San Antonio’s pressing need to focus on air pollution solutions and engage the local community on ways it can help.

In August 2012, San Antonio fell into “monitored non-attainment”, meaning the region failed to meet both federal ozone standards and the city’s own air quality goals established in the SA2020 plan. Known as a leader in taking proactive measures to address air quality challenges, the seventh largest U.S. city now faces rising levels of ground-level ozone. This increase has much to do with the rapid growth in population (a 16 percent increase in population between 2000 and 2010 according to U.S. census data) and the shift within the state’s energy landscape, with emissions from Eagle Ford oil and gas activities expected to contribute several parts per billion worth of ozone to the region’s airshed. Because city-dwellers have a heightened exposure to pollution, ground-level ozone is particularly dangerous in dense metropolitan areas. Research shows that urban residents are more at risk of respiratory health problems, such as asthma, heart attacks and lung cancer. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Coal, Environment, Natural gas | Comments closed

Energy Capital Of The Nation Turns To Smart Power

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 »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Extreme Weather, Green Jobs, Houston, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind | Comments closed

CNN Gets It Wrong On San Antonio’s New Solar Project

San Antonio is soon to be the home of the largest public utility solar project in the United States. The 25-year plan will create five solar plants that produce a total of 400 megawatts of power, which is enough to power 130,000 typical U.S. households. OCI Enterprises and ERCAM Energy of Spain, a leader in the solar energy market, created a joint venture to complete the operation with CPS Energy, San Antonio’s energy utility company. Instead of receiving praise, however, the City of San Antonio, particularly its mayor, has received some harsh accusations regarding the project.

CNN aired a special that attacked Mayor Julian Castro for partnering with a foreign company, saying this decision would “send hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from [the] solar energy deal to South Korea.” The clip went on to criticize OCI Enterprises’ lack of experience in solar power and claimed the company quoted a higher price than several American companies.

Mayor Castro spoke openly about the project and confronted the accusations in several interviews the following Tuesday. He explained that San Antonio based the decision on price, experience, and jobs for San Antonians. "The firm that got this, OCI Solar, is moving its corporate headquarters to San Antonio," Castro said. "It does have a Korean parent company, but the company that we're actually dealing with is American OCI Solar."

“These are skilled and professional jobs,” said Frank Almaraz, vice president of corporate development and planning for CPS Energy. “We’re not uprooting companies and bringing them here. They’ll be doing job fairs here. It should be a real boost to employment here.”

The partnership will create 800 permanent jobs in San Antonio with an average salary of $47,000, which will result in an annual pay roll of $40 million. These are jobs that would be going to Wyoming if the city had chosen to use coal instead of solar.

In addition to creating jobs in San Antonio, OCI Enterprises’ decision to partner with ERCAM Energy will bring 12 years of solar energy experience to the table and make San Antonio a leader in renewable energy.

This new project will reduce the amount of power used from coal plants, which means that San Antonians will be less at risk for respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological diseases.

So what about pricing? CNN’s Tim Rowlands claims that OCI’s bid was actually a higher cent per kilowatt hour than competitors. The reality is that calculating the true costs of a project of this caliber is never easy. The cost of land for the solar farm and the manufacturing site’s location are also critical factors. Also, CPS Energy does not publicly disclose pricing, so it is unclear where CNN obtained the numbers for this segment.  CPS CEO Doyle Beneby has only revealed that the price is “very, very competitive.”

CNN needs to review their facts. San Antonio’s priorities are in the right place: cleaner air and more jobs for San Antonio.

Also posted in Solar | 2 Responses, comments now closed
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