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Government Policy Promotes Wind in Texas at the Expense of Nuclear and Coal

Yahoo Contributor Network

An article in Clean Technica suggests that the burgeoning wind power industry in Texas may drive out both nuclear and coal power in the Lone Star State. The drivers to this process seem to include government subsidies and regulations.

Wind power industry in Texas fueled by government subsidies

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, the wind power tax credit was renewed, fueling the growth of wind farms in Texas, according to the Austin American Statesman. As a result, it is anticipated that 1,472 megawatts of new wind power will be available by the end of 2013, 1,127 megawatts more by the end of 2014 and an additional 249 megawatts by the end of 2015. In 2012, 9 percent of the energy consumed in Texas came from wind. That percentage is expected to creep up as more capacity is added.

Wind power transmission lines being built

One of the problems with wind power, especially in Texas, is that wind tends to blow most vigorously in north and west Texas while the large energy markets are at a distance, in Dallas, Houston, and other metropolitan areas. Clean Technica reports that a $7 billion project to build transmission lines from wind farms to metropolitan energy markets is near completion, capable of carrying up to 18,456 megawatts. More lines are being planned to service out of state markets.

Batteries for power storage

Another problem with wind energy is that it is not constant. When wind blows vigorously the power produced often exceeded what is needed on the grid. When the winds are calm, wind power needs to be supplemented by more conventional power plants. According to Dvice, Duke Energy has built one of the largest batteries in the world as a prototype to store power when wind farms are producing more than is needed and release it when the wind farms are becalmed.

Coal and nuclear in trouble

While tax subsidies are encouraging the construction of wind farms, government regulations are discouraging coal and nuclear power, according to Clean Technica. The Obama EPA is imposing strong emissions standards that are making coal plants prohibitively expensive. At the same time, post-Fukushima regulations seem to have stopped the construction of new nuclear power plants. This has caused a quandary for Exelon, an energy company with both nuclear and wind power interests.

Oil and natural gas

Thanks to the fracking boom, especially in the southeast Texas Eagle Ford formation, natural gas seems to be safe from competition from wind, according to Clean Technica. As coal fired plants decline, power plants fueled by relatively clean natural gas are on the rise. Hopes that the Keystone XL pipeline will finally be approved hold out hope for a flow of Alberta shale oil to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast for both domestic and foreign markets.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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