Texas regulators from the Texas Public Utility Commission, the Texas Railroad Commission, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are meeting jointly today to hear invited testimony on proposed federal emissions rules promulgated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. As these regulators — and regulators across The Wind Corridor — consider a path forward, The Wind Coalition believes constituents and consumers can be well-served by an approach that leverages our states’ indigenous energy resources, especially wind, solar, and natural gas. The Coalition submitted the following comments in writing:
Dear Honorable Commissioners,
We are pleased that you have gathered together to discuss the future of electricity generation in our state and ways that Texas can respond to recently proposed federal emissions requirements. While there was not an opportunity to present to you today, we appreciate your willingness to accept our comments and we look forward to working with each of you and your staff in the months ahead as Texas plans for the future.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act charge states with finding a path toward emissions reductions in their electric generation fleets. With proper planning, communication, and collaboration, we believe that a focused path can lead us toward several positive outcomes. These include greater economic prosperity, improvements in air and water quality, and predictable and affordable energy prices for Texas consumers, including our vital manufacturing base.
Wind energy is already providing consumer savings and emissions reductions; a typical 2 MW wind turbine avoids around 4,000-4,500 tons of carbon emissions annually. Texas’ leadership in wind energy can be leveraged as part of a further emissions reduction strategy.
Producing more than 10% of Texans’ electricity needs, Texas’ 13,000-megawatt wind energy generation capacity now leads our nation in the production of emission-free wind power. More than 117 wind projects are active in the state, producing enough energy to power 3.3 million average American homes.
According to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Texas’ land-based wind potential at an 80 meter hub height is 1,901,530 MW, the best resource in the United States and the equivalent of 18 times the state’s current electricity needs.
Over the previous 24 months, wind energy has represented half of the new electricity generation assets built in Texas, with the balance being predominately natural gas. Wind and natural gas work well together, complementing one another and making Texas more energy independent.
Texas is blessed with incredibly abundant supplies of clean energy, including infinite wind and solar resources, and a nearly infinite supply of natural gas. Working together, these Texas energy resources provide consumers with long-term price stability, reliability, and affordability. Each has characteristics that are advantageous and, used together, can help us meet requirements under federal rules while increasing our energy independence.
We see the dramatic economic impacts of energy development every day across our state. In some regions, oil and gas development is leading economic growth. In others, the more than $26 billion invested by the Texas wind energy industry is providing an economic stimulus to long-neglected rural areas. In each case, by developing our indigenous resources we reduce our dependency on fuels that are imported from outside of our state. This means that Texas consumers keep more of their energy dollars at home, working in our Texas communities and economy.
Shifting our energy use from imported fuels to our own home-grown resources will have a wide variety of positive outcomes. For a variety of reasons – wind energy can be a part of the solution.
Provides Affordable, Long Term Price Stability
Technological advancements in turbines, blade designs, telecommunications, and computing have made wind energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity. And, while the price of electricity from other sources can fluctuate due to variable costs like fuel, the fuel price on a wind farm is fixed for perpetuity. This means that wind power can help hedge against fuel price volatility in other forms of generation.
Revitalizes Rural Economies
Wind energy can diversify the economies of rural communities, adding to the tax base and providing new types of income for farming and ranching communities. Wind energy investments are large and these capital investments, now totaling more than $26 billion in Texas, add a new source of property taxes in rural areas that otherwise have a challenging time attracting new industry. Communities across Texas now actively recruit wind energy development as part of their regional economic development programs. We urge you to visit these communities and see first-hand the role that wind development is playing in restoring the vitality of these regions.
Wind energy projects create new jobs ranging from meteorologists and surveyors to structural engineers, assembly workers, lawyers, bankers, and technicians. On a per MW basis, wind energy creates 30% more jobs than a coal plant and 66% more than a nuclear plant. And, as wind development has expanded in the region, wind energy manufacturing has grown as well. According to the Governor’s Renewable Energy Industries Report, nearly 26,000 Texans make their living in wind related fields.
Provides Greater Energy Independence
Wind turbines diversify our energy portfolio and help reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Wind energy is homegrown Texas energy and – because its cost is constant – can help provide a hedge against increases in fossil fuel costs. Texas wind and Texas natural gas integrate well, creating opportunities for both markets to grow while unseating dirtier, imported fuels.
Wind farms are spaced over a large geographic area, but their actual “footprint” covers a small portion of the land (less than 5%), meaning they have little impact on agricultural uses. This means that wind turbines can be installed without interfering with people, livestock, or production. In many parts of our state, farmers and ranchers have been able to stay on their land thanks to a new crop, the wind energy they harvest above their land.
Provides Economic Benefits to Rural Texas
Developing local sources of energy means our energy dollars are invested back into the local economy. Landowners benefit directly from lease payments, school districts benefit and local governments benefit from tax revenue, and local workers benefit from job opportunities that are often difficult to find in rural Texas.
After agriculture, traditional power generation is the nation’s second largest use of water. Wind is an infinite fuel that generates electricity without using water. For example, producing the same amount of electricity can take about 600 times more water with nuclear power than wind, and about 500 times more water with coal than wind. The water consumption savings from wind projects in Texas total more than 7.8 billion gallons of water a year.
Helps Protect Clean Water and Clean Air
Wind turbines produce clean power with no emissions of any kind, which is healthier for all Texans. The wind power installed in Texas help avoid 25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the equivalent of taking 4,075,000 cars off the road.
Texans should be proud of our distinguished history in energy development and innovation. We have led, and continue to lead, the world in oil and natural gas production and technologies. We have led, and we continue to lead, in wind energy development and innovation. Thanks in part to the work of Texas’ wind innovators and pioneers, wind is no longer “alternative” energy. It has become a mainstream source of power that is viable, affordable, uses no water, creates no pollution, and – most importantly – is Texas made.
As you contemplate appropriate responses to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules, we urge you to examine closely the interplay of Texas’ indigenous energy sources and how they can be leveraged to meet the rule while growing our economy and further solidifying Texas’ leadership role in American energy.
Thank you for your time. The members of The Wind Coalition and I look forward to working with you as we bring homegrown, domestic energy production to Texas and we remain available to speak with you or your staff whenever we may be of help.
The Wind Coalition