Calpine, NRG post report that seeks changes in ERCOT pricing, settlement rules

5.10.2017

Calpine and NRG Energy filed Wednesday a commissioned report with the Texas Public Utility Commission that recommends changes to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' pricing and settlement rules.

The commissioned report, titled "Priorities for the Evolution of an Energy-Only Electricity Market Design in ERCOT," was prepared by William Hogan of Harvard and Susan Pope of FTI Consulting.

Calpine and NRG, which are both big power generators in Texas, said they requested the report in the hopes of drawing attention to the difficulties the two are facing with subsidized renewables.

Texas has seen its wind generation reach roughly 21,000 MW of installed capacity, roughly one-fourth of the state's total generating capacity of about 84,000 MW.

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These bills target wind energy with ham-fisted 'fixes' based on baseless claims

3.29.2017

The wind energy industry has long had some lawmakers gunning for it. The latest rear-guard action is a disingenuous effort to portray the industry as a threat to military preparedness. 

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, have emerged as the faces of wind-energy opposition using the proximity of wind projects to military bases as a pretext to take away all-important tax incentives for clean energy. They've introduced companion bills, SB 277 and HB 445, to deny tax incentives to developers of new wind turbines within 30 miles of a military airfield. 

And in Washington, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, are backing federal bills that would impose similar restrictions nationwide.

Yes, poorly located turbines can interfere with low-level military flight training exercises and hinder the detection of small planes on radar systems. But there is already a national process for wind farm developers, local communities and military installations to review pending wind farms. If a base commander has concerns that can't be resolved, those wind projects won't be built. 

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SA Congressman's District Tops Lone Star State for Solar Jobs

3.31.2017

The solar energy industry is growing the fastest in some of the most politically conservative corners of the Lone Star State, a new report from the Solar Foundation shows.

The foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census last week with charts that display the distribution of solar jobs by counties and by districts for the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

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Large Scale Solar Power Grows Rapidly

5.8.2017

Large-scale solar power has grown rapidly over the past six years as falling solar panel prices, tax incentives and government policies aimed at boosting renewable energy encourage the development of major solar projects.

The installed capacity of so-called utility-scale projects - greater than one megawatt, or enough to power 200 homes on a hot Texas day - has increased an average of more than 70 percent a year between 2010 and 2016 to about 21,500 megawatts, with about half of that capacity coming online in the last two years.

Utility-scale solar, however, still accounts for a tiny share of the nation's electricity production. Last year, it represented less than 1 percent of the country's utility power generation capacity. Wind accounts for 5.6 percent of the nation's generation capacity, according to the Energy Department.

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U.S. Wind Energy Installations Surge: A New Turbine Rises Every 2.4 Hours

5.3.2017

Every two and a half hours, workers installed a new wind turbine in the United States during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released on May 2.

"We switched on more megawatts in the first quarter than in the first three quarters of last year combined," Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said in a statement.

Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Much of the demand for new wind energy generation in recent years has come from Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, GM, Walmart and Microsoft that are buying wind energy in large part for its low, stable cost.

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CPS develops $10M battery to store renewable power

2.26.17

San Antonio-based CPS Energy is working on a project that, if successful, will help solve one of its trickiest problems in solar and wind energy production.

The public utility won a $3 million grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to develop a commercial battery to store large amounts of solar and wind power during peak production, which generally isn’t when people need it the most.

Renewable energy production can be fickle and unpredictable since it relies on the weather. Peak usage in Texas, on the other hand, is almost always in the evenings when people get home and turn on the air conditioning. The trouble with using wind and solar energy is shifting the power produced during the day and at night to peak usage times.

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Advanced Microgrid Solutions and Pedernales Electric Cooperative Win $3.24 Million Department of Energy Grant to Advance Grid Integration of Solar Energy in Texas

2.2.17

SAN FRANCISCO, and JOHNSON CITY, Texas, Feb. 2, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) and Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) announced today that they were awarded a $3.24 million grant by the Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate the use of advanced energy storage technologies to integrate high penetrations of solar energy into the electric grid in Texas. 

The project is a collaboration among leading-edge companies in the energy storage space including AMS, Opus One Solutions and GridBright in partnership with Pedernales Electric Cooperative.  Pedernales is the largest electric distribution cooperative in the United States, serving nearly 290,000 meters over more than 8,100 square miles in Texas.

"Texas is the new frontier for integrating renewable energy into the electric grid," said AMS CEO Susan Kennedy. "The enormous penetration of wind and solar in Texas has created significant challenges in managing the distribution grid.  PEC is taking on a challenge the whole country is facing."

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Report Shows New Transmission Can Help Wind Energy Supply a Third of U.S. Electricity

1.9.17

The Energy Department today released a report which confirms that adding even limited electricity transmission can significantly reduce the costs of expanding wind energy to supply 35% of U.S. electricity by 2050. The report, titled Reducing Wind Curtailment through Transmission Expansion in a Wind Vision Future and authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), affirms the findings of the Energy Department’s 2015 Wind Vision, which showed that a future in which wind provides 20% of U.S. electricity in 2030 and 35% in 2050 is achievable and would provide significant economic, energy security, and health benefits to the nation.
For the study, NREL simulated operation of the electric power grid under a scenario where 35% of electricity comes from wind in the year 2050 using PLEXOS, an integrated modeling tool commonly used by utilities and transmission organizations. The study focuses on the Western Interconnection grid, which includes 11 states, two Canadian provinces, and parts of northern Mexico where the U.S. grid crosses the border. The study includes a baseline scenario assuming no significant transmission expansion across the western grid, as well as three scenarios with varying levels of transmission buildout.

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Texas Electric Cooperatives to showcase state-of-the-art energy storage system at its Master Distribution Center

1.25.17

AUSTIN, Texas and SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Texas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (TEC), an association representing some of the largest electricity cooperatives in the United States, today announced a partnership with cleantech leader Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) to offer AMS services to its member cooperatives, and host an advanced energy storage system installed and operated by AMS at its Master Distribution Center in Georgetown, Texas.  

This partnership will allow TEC to offer its 75 member cooperatives preferred pricing for advanced energy storage systems and AMS services.  The system that TEC will install at its own 160,000 square foot Master Distribution Center will reduce TEC's peak energy demand, while providing support to the electric grid.  It will also provide training and educational opportunities for all of TEC's member cooperative electric utilities.  The project effectively demonstrates how utilities can use advanced energy storage to maximize efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance the reliability and security of their electric grids.

"Battery storage represents the next step in optimizing our use of renewable energy," said Johnny Andrews, Chief Operating Officer, TEC Manufacturing & Distribution Services.  "We are excited to provide this technology to our members and to showcase how battery storage can maximize the efficiency of their electric grid. TEC is constantly looking for new and better technological solutions to support our members in their delivery of electricity."

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Public Citizen Tom “Smitty” Smith Looks Back on a Life Well Lived

12.16.16

The appearance of Public Citizen Execu­tive Director Tom Smith at the November meeting of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club was not unusual in form. The man known universally as "Smitty" schmoozed with the group in the crowded back room of Scholz Garten, waited through the regular meeting business, and eventually walked to the speaker's platform to deliver a talk on the latest Texas and Austin developments in renewable energy. Smitty recalled, "the first time I ever lobbied ... with a bunch of Sierrans defending Barton Springs from balls of goo," and at least a few people in the room also recalled that battle.

"We're winning the war on coal," Smitty began, introducing the latest Public Citizen report on energy production in Texas, citing research that represented not only the environmental advantages of wind and solar, but the growing economic muscle of the once "alternative" energy resources. We've reached "the beginning of the end" of reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, he continued, noting the persistently low natural gas prices that have undermined the market logic of coal, the growth of wind resources, and his expectation that 12 of the 19 existing Texas coal plants will be retired by 2022, with the solar industry now the 26th largest in Texas.

Here in Austin, Smitty continued, the eventual closure of the coal-fired Fayette Power Plant has become imminent, not only because of its environmental consequences, but because his research reflects that Fayette is now losing about $30 million a year. (Austin Energy owns a one-third interest in Fayette.)

Moreover, the city of Austin has become increasingly committed to reducing its carbon emissions, with updated Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plans intended to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2030. Smitty also delivered a thumbnail history of the Texas environmental movement – against nukes, to protect local resources, and to fight climate change – and he credited his audience for providing the activist legwork. All of this was possible, he told the Sierrans, "because of the organizing we did in Austin and Texas."

It was vintage Smitty: the casual manner and good humor; the bar graphs reflecting resource and economic analysis, energy analytics combined with political commentary. Most especially, the optimism – the absolute conviction that with enough public spirit and hard work, all things are possible.

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