Yesterday, the Amarillo Globe-News carried an opinion piece by Public Utilities Commission of Texas Chair Barry Smitherman on how Texas has become a national leader in wind power and how expanding transmission is needed. Two readers posted negative comments, one on costs and the other on a variety of complaints. Here is a response from Michael Goggin, AWEA's Electric Industry Analyst:
I'd like to thank Mr. Smitherman for his very thoughtful article that logically explains why new transmission lines are essential for Texas to continue leading the country in renewable energy development as well in creating green jobs and associated economic development. I would like to respond to several concerns that were expressed in the comments, though:
1. Cheaper electricity – Before proceeding with the CREZ transmission plan, ERCOT performed a detailed analysis of how transmission development and associated wind development would affect consumers in Texas. It found that building the transmission would save consumers $1.7 billion per year by replacing the use of expensive natural gas with wind energy, repaying the $4.9 billion cost of the transmission in 2.9 years.
Bringing new wind energy online is critical to protecting Texas consumers from increases in the price of fossil fuels. Texas currently depends on natural gas to generate 49% of its electricity, and natural gas plants make up 71% of the state's generating capacity. From 1998 to 2006 natural gas prices in the state tripled, causing the price of electricity for the average residential consumer to increase from 7.6 cents/kWh to 12.9 cents/kWh-an increase of $64 monthly, or over $750 per year, for the average household.
2. Need for standby power – While the wind may slow or even stop at one location, over a large area like the state of Texas wind is a much more constant resource. In addition, wind output can be forecast at least a day in advance, giving grid operators plenty of time to bring other power plants online as needed, just as they do when electricity demand suddenly increases because the weather is hotter than forecast and millions of people turn on their air conditioners, or when a large coal or nuclear power plant experiences an outage and must shut down, often without notice. In contrast, wind energy output changes very slowly and can be forecast.
3. Wind turbines become net energy producers within a matter of months – The detailed, third-party verified accounting analysis linked below (here) shows that wind turbines produce enough power within the first several months of operation to more than make up for the energy that was used to produce them. Since a modern wind turbine will remain operational for decades, the energy and carbon dioxide savings produced over its lifetime are quite significant. In addition, around 98% of the land in a wind plant can continue serving as crop/rangeland, since the actual footprint of the wind turbines is very small.
American Wind Energy Association