Monday, September 15, 2014

Exit Coal/Enter Wind

The accelerating decline of coal has been in the cards for some time, now.  With long-term projections showing the costs in pollution and emissions far outweighing the benefits, the energy sector has clearly shifted to natural gas as its leading resource.

However, the US's distinct advantages in wind resources shouldn't be underestimated.  What wind has been lacking to compete with more traditional resources is infrastructure.  As efficient as an energy source can be, it's useless if it can't be efficiently integrated into the existing grid around it.  While incentives have been set in motion such as the EPA's demand that power plant emissions be cut by 30 percent in the next 15 years, the kind of large-scale system needed to show how powerful an impact wind can have on assuaging the nation's energy grids has been lacking; until now.

Wind Farm off the town of White Deer, TX
The Texas Panhandle, with winds so fast, locals consider them a hindrance more than a help, is now fully connected to the traditional energy landscape of the Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin residencies with power lines capable of transmitting up to 18,000 Megawatts of power.  The project is daring on many levels, none more so perhaps than the fact that the infrastructure lines weren't exactly being made to meet existing demand.  The project is one giant $7 billion gamble that wind developers will take advantage of the gaping potential of servicing Texas' major cities under Texas' low taxes and regulations.  So far it seems to be working, as two wind farms have already entered operation this summer, producing power equivalent to a traditional coal plant.

While Texas is a unique situation, other regions of the country are following suit.  Detroit's largest supplier, DTE, recently forcasted $8 billion of their own investments will be spent retooling and renewing Michigan's energy grid.  While natural gas will always be on the table, Michigan's local winds are similar in proportional abundance to Texas.  In addition, when taken with DTE's recent plans to close six of the state's coal plants, it's safe to assume utilities are preparing for a major push into wind power.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

No comments:

Post a Comment