wind picks up

Thanks to a ruling of the state Public Utility Commission today, Texas will get $5 billion worth of transmission lines running out of West Texas and the Panhandle drawing, ultimately, 18.5 megawatts of clean new wind- and solar-generated electricity.

PUC commissioners, after being lobbied aggressively by a variety of utilities and state residents, adopted the middle option.

  • Scenario 1, Plan A, 12,053 MW, $2.95 billion
  • Scenario 1, Plan B, 12,053 MW, $3.78 billion
  • Scenario 2, 18,456 MW, $4.93 billion
  • Scenario 3, 24,859 MW, $6.38 billion
  • Scenario 4, 24,419 MW, $5.75 billion.

San Antonio’s CPS Energy, which reflexively boasts about its wind-energy purchases, had argued for the weakest option. (Couldn’t have anything to do with losing monopoly-like control on a vast area of the grid, could it?)

So expect a flurry of wind – and some solar – applications in the coming months. Transmission line completion expected by 2012.

Statement by state Rep. Mike Villareal, who had fought hard to convince the PUC to adopt Scenario 4’s expansion levels utilizing an online petition and by roping in fellow state-level lawmakers:

This is a big day for renewable energy and clean air in Texas. The Public Utility Commission (PUC) selected a plan to build transmission lines that can carry up to 15,000 megawatts of wind – and eventually solar – energy from west Texas to consumers around the state. While I had urged the PUC to choose a larger plan, their decision is still a big step forward for cleaner air, affordable energy, green jobs and a stronger Texas economy.

Texas was a world leader in oil and gas in the 20th Century, and I’m glad to see we’re putting ourselves in a position to be a world leader on renewable energy in the 21st Century. Thanks to the decision today, renewable energy will account for nearly one-quarter of energy consumption in the state by 2015, compared to around five percent today. By lowering consumers’ reliance on increasingly costly energy sources, such as natural gas, we will reduce their energy bills as well as the pollution in the air they breathe.

So where is Texas today in the Big Windy picture?

We’re tops in the nation.

But we have a long way to go…

[LATE ADDITION: Here’s the NYTimes item on the Texas PUC wind expansion.]

EVERYTHING LABELED: The ducks of New Braunfels.

So far, no accusations of censorship against Big Oil loyalists in the Cheney regime have followed the release of the synthesis climate report “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.”

My favorite bulleted point may be, “Our vulnerability to climate change has been increased by some of our decisions.” One point not made should be 20 years of inaction.

Here’s part of the executive summary:

Once considered a problem mainly for the future, climate change is now upon us. People are at the heart of this problem: we are causing it, and we are being affected by it. The rapid onset of many aspects of climate change highlights the urgency of confronting this challenge without further delay. The choices that we make now will influence current and future emissions of heat-trapping gases, and can help to reduce future warming. Likewise, our decisions on whether and how to adapt to the degree of warming that is already inevitable can help us reduce the impacts of future warming.

1. Human-induced climate change and its impacts are apparent now throughout the United States.

• Global warming is unequivocal and is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases and other pollutants1.

• Observed changes in the United States include temperature increases, sea-level rise, increased heavy downpours, rapidly retreating glaciers, regional droughts, substantial changes in sensitive wildlife, earlier snowmelt, and altered timing and amount of river flows.

• Impacts of these changes are apparent in many facets of society including health, water, food, energy, and quality of life.

2. Many climatic changes are occurring faster than projected even a few years ago.

• Global emissions of heat-trapping gases are now increasing even more rapidly than the highest emissions scenario scientists have been analyzing.

• Arctic sea ice and the large ice sheets on Greenland and parts of Antarctica are melting faster than expected.

3. The degree to which future climate will change, and the scope and magnitude of the impacts, depend on choices made now.

• Another 1°F of warming in the next few decades (on top of the observed 1.5°F rise) is already locked in due to past emissions.

• The amount of warming we will experience beyond the next few decades depends upon choices about emissions made now and in the near future.

• Lower emissions of heat-trapping gases will result in less climate change and related impacts.

4. Extreme weather and climate are having increasing impacts on society.

• The United States has experienced increases in heat waves, wildfires, heavy downpours, and in some regions, droughts, all of which are disrupting our lives.

• Extreme events affect every aspect of society and nature including human health, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and water resources.

• Atlantic hurricane intensity has increased in recent decades and additional future increases are projected.

5. Sea-level rise and storm surges place many U.S. coastal regions at increasing risk.

• The low-lying East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States are vulnerable to combined effects of sea-level rise, storm surges, and hurricanes.

• Alaska’s coast is vulnerable to the effects of sea-ice retreat, thawing of coastal permafrost, and rising sea level, all of which are caused by warming, and combine to increase coastal erosion.

• Sea-level rise threatens the long-term viability of island communities by exacerbating the impacts of coastal storms, flooding infrastructure and ecosystems, and contaminating freshwater supplies with seawater.

6. Assuring an adequate and clean water supply will be an increasing challenge in many parts of the United States.

• Most of the West’s surface water comes from snowpack, which is declining as more precipitation falls as rain and snowpack melts earlier, leaving less water available for summer when it is needed most.

• Growing populations and changing precipitation patterns will increase competition among urban, industrial, agricultural, and natural ecosystem water needs in regions where overall water supply declines.

7. Interactions among climate-related and other stresses will present complex challenges to society.

• Simultaneous and back-to-back extreme weather events can amplify impacts, challenging our response capabilities.

• Climate change can combine with other stresses including pollution, invasive species, and the overuse of resources to create impacts larger than any of these alone.

• Trade-offs will be necessary. For example, increasing water scarcity in some regions will force hard choices about the allocation of water for growing food, producing electricity, providing for urban uses, and protecting ecosystems.

8. Our vulnerability to climate change has been increased by some of our decisions.

• Population and development patterns have put more people in places that are vulnerable to climate change impacts.

• U.S. population has grown rapidly in cities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which are vulnerable to extreme heat, sea-level rise, hurricanes, and storm surge.

• There has been very rapid population growth in arid western states where water is projected to become increasingly scarce in a warming world.

9. Historical climate and weather patterns are no longer an adequate guide to the future.

• Planning for providing water, energy, transportation, and other services has assumed the future would be like the past; this is no longer justifiable.

• Long-lived infrastructure, from power plants to roads and buildings, must be designed and built taking climate change into account.

• Long term planning will have to continually incorporate the latest information, as climate will be ever changing, requiring adaptation strategies to constantly evolve.

10. Responses to climate change entail reducing emissions to limit future warming and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable.

• Large cuts in emissions would be required to limit warming to the low end of the range of scenarios, making successful adaptation more likely.

• There are limits to adaptation. For example, the financial and technical challenges of defending coasts against sea-level rise under high emissions scenarios would probably result in the inundation and abandonment of many areas.

• Applying the best scientific information can help avoid unintended consequences of our responses to climate change.

[Ducks are from my lens. Wind works are via state Comptroller’s wind energy overview (pdf) from 2008 energy report.]

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2 responses to “wind picks up

  1. does this mean we’ll be paying cps MORE for Windtricity? geez, try and do the right thing & look where it gets ya…


  2. apart from the occasional fuel ‘adjustment,’ we’ve done okay here on rates. that time is over, but it due mainly to rising energy costs across the board.

    cps has been getting rich and our city has grown dependent on the huge amount of power the utility sells outside of SA to keep things running. however, the pressing need to take charge of our energy future with wind and solar (some would say nuclear) will not be cheap or easy.

    yes, cheap power is done. at least for our generation.


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