Category Archives: Wind

Demand Response: People, not New Power Plants, are Driving the Clean Energy Future

By: Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy

Clean energy resources, like wind, solar, and energy efficiency, have certain key advantages over traditional, fossil fuel-based resources: they don’t require expensive, polluting fuels or large capital investment, consume little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and are easily scalable. To take full advantage of low-carbon, renewable energy sources, we need a power grid with enough flexibility to harness clean energy when it is available and abundant. That’s where demand response, a people-driven solution, comes in.

On a hot summer day, for example, electricity use rapidly increases as people turn on air conditioners to avoid the heat of the late afternoon. A decade ago, the grid operator’s only option is to turn on another fossil fuel power plant to meet the increased need for electricity. But, at any given time, there are thousands of light switches left on, idle water heaters, cycling swimming pool pumps, and forgotten thermostats that people could temporarily turn off or down, if only they were offered the right incentive. If asked, people can adjust their power usage in exchange for a financial reward. We call this “demand response,” and it is increasingly helping to balance the flow of electricity with our energy needs at a given moment.

Demand response diverts money that would generally go to a fossil fuel power plant to homeowners and businesses instead. In this scenario, a utility or demand response provider sends a message for participants to reduce electricity use at key times in exchange for a credit or rebate on their utility bill, in addition to the cost savings they will earn through conservation. Of course, participants always have the option to opt-out with the tap of a button on their smart phone or thermostat. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Extreme Weather, Smart Grid, Solar | Tagged | Leave a comment

Fossil Fuel Industry's Tired Battle Against Clean Energy is Also a Losing One

Source: Alternative Energies

Source: Alternative Energies

The assault on successful renewable energy legislation continues, long after the facts have proven that state renewable policies deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy solutions that the majority of Americans support. Apparently, the fossil fuel industry and its so-called “free market” allies didn’t get the memo.

There’s a great line in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s 2000 blockbuster Gladiator where a soldier says to his general, as they are about to slaughter an overmatched foe, “People should know when they’re conquered.” The general replies, “Would you? Would I?”

So I can’t really blame the fossil fuel industry for fighting old battles in an effort to undo approaches that have increased investment in renewable energy in states around the country, created thousands of jobs, and continue to lower energy costs with each passing day. Read More »

Also posted in Environment, Legislation, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar | 2 Responses

Secretary Moniz Deems Austin’s Pecan Street ‘Very Impressive’

Marita with Moniz

EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a short summary of EDF’s Smart Power Initiative to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. As a group of over 30 people piled into the Pike Powers Laboratory (including the lab’s namesake), the Secretary made his way in, beelined for some coffee, and sat down to hear all about Austin’s innovative and collaborative energy “ecosystem.”

Present was the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, various cleantech entrepreneurs sponsored by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), representatives from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), and the Governor’s office, among others.

Everyone had the opportunity to speak to the Secretary in a roundtable format about the work their particular company or group is doing to solve energy problems, and as EDF’s representative, I reported on our Smart Power work in Texas. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Pecan Street, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar | Tagged | Comments closed

We Can't Expect a Reliable Energy Future Without Talking Water

Kate Zerrenner

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

It’s no secret that electricity generation requires substantial amounts of water, and different energy sources require varying amounts of water. Nor is it a surprise that Texas and other areas in the West and Southwest are in the midst of a persistent drought. Given these realities, it is surprising that water scarcity is largely absent from the debate over which energy sources are going to be the most reliable in our energy future.

Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.

Moving forward into an uncertain energy future, the water intensity of a particular electricity source should be taken into consideration as a matter of course.  Read More »

Also posted in Coal, Drought, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Solar | Tagged , | Comments closed

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

MaritaHeadshotAs we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid's power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the "system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy, Texas Energy Crunch | Tagged , , | Comments closed

2013 Texas Air Quality: Year In Review

Elena CraftAs we come to the end of another year, we look back on the progress that has been made to improve Texas’ air quality. Our work is especially important in Texas. Ozone pollution in the state’s largest cities routinely spikes above healthy levels, and Texas leads the nation in annual carbon emissions.

Throughout 2013, my fellow bloggers and I tracked the critical progress made towards cleaner air in Texas. Texas experienced a handful of victories and a handful of losses. To summarize the year, I’ll discuss a few of the areas where we made progress, and a few of the areas where there is still more work to do.

Progress Toward Smart Power and Clean Air

Over the past year, Texas wind power continued its promising positive trend, thanks in part to the state’s forward-looking decision to build new high-capacity electricity transmission lines linking the windy plains of West Texas with the state’s cities. The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project was approved by the state in 2008, and the new power lines are set to come online in a few weeks. The new power lines can carry 18,500 megawatts of electricity—enough to power millions of homes. The CREZ lines will help ensure Texas wind energy continues to expand, offsetting electricity produced from fossil-fuel power plants and reducing pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Climate Change, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, Renewable Energy | 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, San Antonio | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Fueling Cities with West Texas Wind as CREZ Comes Online

MaritaHeadshot

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

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 »

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

Clean Air Standards Create Opportunities, Not Problems for Texas

Jim MarstonOn Thursday, November 7, the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors across the country to solicit public comment on the Carbon Pollution Standards for existing coal-fired power plants.  The EPA seeks to implement common sense, realistic limits on the air pollution emitted from fossil fuel power plants, the single largest source of climate pollution in the United States.

To date, the coal industry has had free license to pollute carbon without limitation, leading directly and indirectly to harm human health and the environment.

These rules will bring a breath of fresh air to Texans and other Americans across the county.

Sadly in a few states, such as Texas, officials are acting to protect the owners of a few dirty coal plants and undermine the economic and health benefits that EPA will realize with the new measure.

Christi Craddick, member of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency charged with regulating mining, published an editorial in the Abilene Reporter-News stating the proposed EPA standards will cause “detrimental effects on U.S. competitiveness in world markets, halt America’s energy boom and manufacturing renaissance and cost the U.S. economy.”  Craddick cites no evidence to support her claims.  Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, Renewable Energy, Solar | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now 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, San Antonio, Solar | Tagged | Comments closed
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