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Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter State Capitol E-Report
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August 12, 2011:

  • Coastal Wind Power Helps Texas Fight Blackouts
    Wind Generates 9.9% of Texas Electricity in 2011

    Wind energy is playing an increasingly important role in Texas’ electricity grid. On Monday, August 8, ERCOT President H.B. Trip Doggett praised coastal wind for helping prevent a crisis during record-setting power demands stemming from an intense heat wave. ERCOT also announced that wind energy supplied 9.9% of Texas’ total electricity from January 1 to June 30 of 2011, up from 7.8% in 2010.* [ERCOT is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which directs the Texas electric power grid that serves most of the state.]

    “Coastal wind played a critical role in meeting peak daytime demand during these past few weeks,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The data from coastal wind projects indicate that capacity is even greater than previously thought. With exciting new wind projects being considered by Austin Energy for the City of Austin and elsewhere in the state, we think the time is right to build more carefully-sited coastal wind projects.”

    The City of Austin will hear presentations next week about a proposed coastal wind project from Austin Energy, which hopes to bring 291 MW of on-shore wind power into operation by December 2012. This exciting proposal comes as Texans are battling a proposed coal-fired power plant outside Houston and a proposed pet-coke plant in Corpus Christi. Local residents have expressed concern about new air pollution caused by these plants, as well as water used for operation.

    West Texas is currently baking in a severe drought, and water-intensive energy production is slowing as a result. Hydraulic fracturing, a method to extract natural gas, is highly water-intensive and has slowed in the Eagle Ford Shale as a result of low water levels. Wind energy requires no water to operate, unlike hydraulic fracturing, coal, nuclear, and natural gas-fired steam generation.

    San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro recently announced plans to build a 400-MW solar generating facility outside the city, the largest proposed solar facility in the nation. “Coastal wind has great potential to meet Texas’ electricity needs and serve as an economic boon to our communities on the Gulf. Solar also represents a huge opportunity to diversify our electricity grid and generate clean, safe, homegrown electricity,” said Eva Hernandez of the Sierra Club.

    These exciting announcements come during Sierra Club’s Clean Air Week
    , celebrating clean air safeguards that protect public health and the environment. With the EPA expected to release new ozone safeguards soon, coastal wind energy represents an opportunity to meet Texas’ electricity needs without the air pollution from traditional coal-fired or pet coke-fired power.

    * Source: Emerging Technologies Working Group Quarterly Update, June 30, 2011
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