Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wind-gas combo - The right energy solution for Texas

Texas leads the nation in wind power generation, and currently has the installed wind power capacity of around 11,000 MW. It has been also reported that the state plans to add more than 6000 MW of new wind power capacity in the next couple of years.

However, the new electric generation in years to come will not come primarily from wind turbines in The Lone Star State but rather from natural gas, which is now thanks to the recent shale gas discoveries, cheaper than ever before.

The plenty of shale gas has been tapped in the last decade or so in Texas, and the shale gas is rapidly becoming the most important source of electricity, not just in the state, but on the federal level too.

Texas already leads the nation in natural gas production, and holds around 23 percent of the country's natural gas reserves. It has been estimated that the further 25 GW of new natural gas generation will be added within the next two decades. Three new natural gas power plants with the total capacity of 2250 MW should become operational in 2015.

Natural gas is not the perfect solution to tackle climate change because it emits harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that more natural gas will also mean less coal power plants. Coal power plants are the worst carbon emitters so replacing coal with natural gas is lot better than building new coal power plants.

Another good news is that the state will continue to invest heavily in new wind energy projects. Wind energy is much cleaner energy source than both natural gas and coal, so going for more wind energy is definitely good to tackle climate change and pollution.

In fact, wind-gas combo seems like the best solution for Texas, the one that could do the trick for many years to come. Wind is much cleaner energy source than natural gas but suffers from intermittency, and in this sense natural gas can cover for this lack of reliability of the wind.

Coal is still relatively cheap energy solution but this will all change if US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopts new pollution control regulations. This will likely happen sooner than later, and Texas shouldn't have big problems in making the switch away from coal, after all there are plenty of both gas and wind in the state.