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Monday, July 21, 2008

don't mess with texas (wind power).

Following my post from last Monday on the Hanford nuclear waste storage facility along the Columbia River Basin, a couple of stories caught my eye this week.

A lot of money flows through the slots and poker tables in Las Vegas, and $9 billion probably isn't a ton of money when you're talking about nuclear research (which is how much has been spent on researching the nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada), but the United States Department of Energy is now estimating that it will cost over $90 billion to open and operate that country's first nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. With a Federal Debt of $9.5 trillion, I get the feeling that $90 billion may not be as easy to come by as it may once have...

Southeast of Nevada, utility authorities in Texas have preliminarily approved a $4.9 billion project to construct new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from West Texas to cities like Dallas. From the Washington Post:

Texas is the national leader in wind power, generating about 5,000 megawatts. But wind-energy advocates say the lack of transmission lines has kept a lot of that power from being put to use and has hindered the building of more turbines.

Most of Texas's wind-energy production is in petroleum-producing West Texas, where nearly 4,000 wind turbines tower over oil pump jacks. The new plan would not build a slew of new turbines but would add transmission lines capable of moving about 18,000 megawatts.

Final approval of this project will lead the Lone Star State to produce more wind energy than the next closest 14 states combined. Following a $9 billion investment in wind power capacity in 2007, United States wind power capacity increased by 46% leading to March 2008, when wind power capacity had grown large enough to serve 4.9 million average households.

On the topic of the growing role of wind power in the United States, in a recent interview, Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder Hunter Lovins gave some interesting insights into this growing sector:
Again, wind last year came on—we brought on fifteen gigawatts. A gigawatt is roughly a nuclear-sized chunk of electricity. Fifteen gigawatts. If we’d have built fifteen nukes, you would have noticed. Nobody noticed. Wind is simply sweeping the market. It is either the first- or second-fastest growing energy supply, followed or led by solar photovoltaics, which are coming on equally rapidly.
According to Alberta Intergovernmental Affairs (pdf), Texas is "a priority state for Alberta." So, as Alberta's government continues its charge towards nuclear power, our political leaders would be savvy to take note of this move in energy diversification by Texas, rather than continuing to take our cues from States like Idaho and Montana.


Anonymous said...

Since electricity production in Texas is about 70,000 megawatt hours, the 5000 megawatts on a percentage basis is less than Alberta.

Alberta had the wind production cap set at about 10% of conventional production to keep the system reliable and said we needed more north south transmission to keep adding capacity above the 10%.

I am surprised for someone that seemed so negative about the new power line in Alberta would be applauding power line deployment for the same purposes in Texas.

On the nuclear front, Texas currently has just under 5000 megawatts of nuclear capacity, while two Texas utilities are in licensing phases to build 3 new nuclear reactors, which if build would add about 4000 megawatts of nuclear capacity.

As for Yucca Mountain, the costs of the repository are not paid by tax payers. The site is funded through: a provision in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 which requires utilities which generate electricity using nuclear power to pay a fee of one tenth of one cent ($0.001) per kilowatt-hour into the Nuclear Waste Fund.

As of late 2007, the fund had 27 billion dollars in it, much less than the cost of Yucca Mountain to date. Appropriations for the project are paid out of that fund. The nuclear industry unlike others pays a tax to manage the externality it creates!

Tieing together the Hanford post, and this, you should look at WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
that is taking waste from the Weapons Industrial Complex. Eventually all the transuranic waste from Hanford and all other nuclear weapons sites will be placed under New Mexico, and the plant has been processing and placing waste under ground since 1999 and has already received more than 5000 shipments.

AWGB said...


daveberta said...

"I am surprised for someone that seemed so negative about the new power line in Alberta would be applauding power line deployment for the same purposes in Texas."

Which Alberta power line?

Anonymous said...

North South Calgary Edmonton link that has been subject to much controversy.

daveberta said...

I wasn't so much opposed to the transmission line as much as I was opposed to the AEUB using public funds to hire private investigators to spy on landowners and their lawyers in between public hearings.

Anonymous said...

"...I was opposed to the AEUB using public funds to hire private investigators to spy on landowners and their lawyers in between public hearings."

Hippie. Welcome to post-PATRIOT ACT STELMACHIA!

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading the book "profit from the peak" written by the guys at the alternative energy newsletter Energy and Capital.

They point out that although alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, etc) is growing quickly each year with success stories like First Solar. alternative energy still accounts for less than 1 % of total energy production worldwide.

A long way to go yet, but also huge upside as conventional production costs increase and economies of scale go to work in the alt. energy sector.

Happy to see the government make real commitments to the environment on the conventional side, but I'd be ecstatic if we did something like in Texas and what good ol' T. Boone Pickens is promoting in the states for wind and solar!


Anonymous said...

The first commenter on this thread had it right. You can't be for wind power on one hand without being amenable to construction of a transmission line on the other.

Your comment about AEUB spying is a convenient dodge. The question remains. If a north-south transmission line was proposed, would you be in favour of it?

Alberta already leads the country in the proportion of its power generated by wind. Now that the 10% cap has been removed, it will go higher. But you can't have windmills downtown or in suburbia, hence the need for a transmission line.

As an aside, and despite the usual suspects suggesting otherwise, wind and solar - despite their very positive contribution - will never eclipse gas-fired, coal, and (maybe) nuclear as the major sources of electricity generation in any province other than Quebec or Manitoba (where hydro reigns supreme). At least not in my lifetime. You simply cannot count on baseload generation above a certain level from wind and solar. Would that it were otherwise, but reality intrudes. There is no commercially viable means of storing electricity on such a grand scale, so you generate what you need at the time.

daveberta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daveberta said...

"Your comment about AEUB spying is a convenient dodge. The question remains. If a north-south transmission line was proposed, would you be in favour of it?"

That's the kind of vaguely hypothetical anonymously launched question that I'm not going to answer in a blog comment box. ;-)

I disagree that believing the consultation and hearing process should be respected by both parties is a convenient dodge. By demeaning the integrity of the process, the AEUB discredited the legitimacy of the transmission line debate. Am I pro-transmission line? I would have to look at the details, but it's clear that the citizens and property owners in the area were not.

Anonymous said...


Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow has invited David Suzuki to "switch on" its unique solar and wind power system, connecting it to the Kingston Electricity Distribution Limited (KEDL) power grid at 7 p.m.
Monday, June 23.


WWEC 2008

The renowned scientist and broadcaster is in Kingston as the keynote speaker at the upcoming World Wind Energy Conference (WWEC).

More than 500 renewable energy developers and advocates from around the world are meeting here from June 23-26 at the WWEC. This kick-off event celebrates inspiring local and global examples of green power in action.


the 2008 World Wind Energy Conference was held in Kingston, Ontario