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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

NINO MARCHETTI, EarthTechling.com, May 27, 2010

A commercial wave-powered demonstration facility a mile off of Freeport, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico is on its way to being one of the first in the world to not only demonstrate the potentials of clean energy through wave power, but also showcase the desalination of salt water for clean drinking water via renewable ocean energy. The facility is to be managed by Independent Natural Resources, Inc. (INRI), through its wholly-owned subsidiary Renew Blue, Inc. (RBI)

INRI said it has gotten the go ahead from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office for the facility. Once online later this year, INRI’s wave power facility will use the company’s SeaDog pump system to capture both kinetic and potential energy using what is described as “a simple pump design with few moving parts and no electronics.” Some of the power being generated will be diverted into the fresh water desalinating process, which reportedly will be able to produce “up to 3,000 gallons of fresh water per day as a demonstration of its ability to provide clean water on a municipal scale.” It is believed a facility such as this could be capable of producing much more than that amount of drinking water as well if needed.

“It is an exciting time for us as we move closer to demonstrating a renewable energy technology that can provide base load electricity and fresh water for municipalities, commercial business and local entities,” said Douglas Sandberg, vice president for INRI.

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RYAN RANDAZZO, The Arizona Republic, November 12, 2008

tboonepickensBillionaire T. Boone Pickens said that his Texas wind farm is on hold because natural gas prices have dropped but that his plan for wind power and natural gas vehicles is still viable to reduce foreign oil imports.

The Texas oil tycoon spoke Tuesday to about 650 utility and investment officials gathered in Phoenix for the Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference.

Pickens launched an advertising campaign last summer to promote wind farms to generate electricity and to use natural gas to power vehicles. “I’m the only person in the United States that has a plan,” he said. “Senator Obama and his people have been in touch with mine. They see the merits of what we are doing.”

Pickens said the U.S. needs to exploit all its resources, from solar power in Arizona to coal and nuclear energy, but that few things could cut foreign oil imports quickly.

He said neither Obama’s plans for 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles nor John McCain’s plans for 45 more nuclear plants would make a dent in oil imports, but semitrucks fueled by natural gas could reduce oil demand for the next 20 years before better transportation technology is available.

“It’s a bridge to the next generation, which will probably be the battery, the fuel cell,” he said. “It won’t be the hydrocarbon.”

But the current drop in oil and natural-gas prices is slowing things down.

Until natural gas prices rise, Pickens said his wind farm and most others in the country will not go forward because electricity from gas plants will be more economical. Still, he was confident prices would rise.

He said Americans haven’t understood the nation’s energy challenges because prices have been low, until last summer when oil hit a record $147 a barrel.

“You haven’t had the leadership in Washington to tell us what the problem was,” he said. “The American people did not realize where we were. When oil went to $100, I had a story to tell.”

Steven Dreyer, managing director at Standard and Poor’s, credited Pickens for raising awareness.

“Arguably, for the first time, ordinary people were able to connect the dots between carbon reduction and energy,” Dreyer said.

Ron Insana, managing director of SAC Capital Advisors and former CNBC commentator, questioned Pickens about how he will benefit financially by such a plan through his wind farm and large stake in Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a natural gas, vehicle fueling company.

Pickens described his potential to profit from wind and natural gas but said his motivations are patriotic.

“I’d rather be playing golf at the Del Mar Country Club this afternoon,” Pickens said. “But I truly believe this is good for the country.”

Pickens believes that global oil production has already “peaked” and that it will continue to become scarcer and more expensive, despite the current lull in gas prices.

He is founder and chairman of energy-investment company BP Capital and founded Mesa Petroleum, a natural gas and oil producer. He is a geologist by training.

“When I launched my plan July 8, gas prices were $4.11 a gallon, and now they’re half that. I think I’ve done a pretty good job,” he said to chuckles from the audience.

He predicted oil, which closed Tuesday at $59, to be $100 a barrel within a year, and could be $300 a barrel by 2018.

Pickens supports domestic drilling but said that can’t come close to meeting daily U.S. oil demand.

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MATTHEW L. WALD, The Energy Challenge @ The New York Times, August 27, 2008

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

While the United States today gets barely 1% of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20%.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50% more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.

“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.

Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.

“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.

Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.

Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.

The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.

These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.

In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.

Energy Department leaders say that, however understandable the local concerns, they are getting in the way. “Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20% of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Texas and California have recently made some progress in building transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems likely to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity. A megawatt is an instantaneous measure of power. A large Wal-Mart draws about one megawatt. The state is planning for an additional 8,000 megawatts of capacity.

But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear enough transmission capacity will be developed. Save for two underwater connections to Long Island, New York State has not built a major new power line in 20 years.

A handful of states like California that have set aggressive goals for renewable energy are being forced to deal with the issue, since the goals cannot be met without additional power lines.

But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, contends that these piecemeal efforts are not enough to tap the nation’s potential for renewable energy.

Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”

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DAVID LAZARUS, The Los Angeles Times, July 9, 2008

When a guy heavily invested in natural gas and wind power says the answer to our energy woes is natural gas and wind power, it’s hard not to smirk at his Texas-size gumption.

But let’s not be hasty.

Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens unveiled a plan Tuesday to wean the United States from its dependence on foreign oil. By shifting to natural gas as a transportation fuel and increasing our reliance on wind power, he said, we could cut oil imports by as much as 38%.

“Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy,” Pickens said in a statement. “It is the single biggest problem facing America today.”

He called the country’s oil purchases from places like Saudi Arabia “the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, sending billions of our dollars overseas to buy . . . a commodity that lasts 90 days until burned in our gas tanks.”

Pickens, a legendary oilman, said his plan could change things within five to 10 years “if we can get Congress and the administration to act quickly.”

That’s a big if. Another big if is getting the auto industry to play ball by manufacturing more vehicles that run on natural gas instead of gasoline. And yet another wild card is whether the oil industry would support new energy priorities.

“These are big question marks,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign and former head of the Sierra Club’s global warming program. “There are a lot of things out of Mr. Pickens’ control.”

The so-called Pickens Plan would first entail a hefty investment — more than $1 trillion — in wind farms on an unusually breezy stretch of countryside extending from Texas to North Dakota.

The wind power would replace the natural gas now used by power plants to generate electricity. The country currently gets about 22% of its juice from natural gas.

All that freed-up natural gas, in turn, would be applied to fueling millions of vehicles that now run on gasoline but would be converted — it’s not clear how, or on whose dime — to run instead on compressed natural gas.

I couldn’t reach Pickens to ask him these questions. But he told the Associated Press that he wasn’t guided by personal gain. “I’m doing it for America,” he said.

Well, that’s heartening. But the fact remains that he and his business partners are investing an estimated $12 billion to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas. That facility, needless to say, would play a pivotal role in meeting the nation’s newfound demand for wind power.

Meanwhile, Pickens’ more-than-$4-billion hedge fund, BP Capital, is invested in a variety of natural gas companies. He also sits on the board of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., North America’s largest provider of vehicular natural gas.

“Mr. Pickens is a very intelligent man,” said Don Martin, vice president of Enmark Energy, a Texas oil and natural gas company. “People in the oil and natural gas business are rich for a reason. They know where the money is.”

But Becker at the Safe Climate Campaign said he didn’t begrudge Pickens’ turning a buck with the Pickens Plan.

“If he can find a way to make money and help the planet, I don’t have a problem with that,” Becker said.

However, he said, natural gas may not be an easy substitute for oil. Natural gas prices have been climbing in tandem with oil prices and are up 30% this year. Increased demand by the United States would push global natural gas prices higher, Becker said, thus mitigating any relief consumers might initially feel at the pump.

Moreover, we’d still have to import more than a third of our oil — assuming everything went according to plan — and would probably end up importing a greater share of natural gas as well.

Our friends in Russia are the leading natural gas purveyors, accounting for almost 15% of world exports.

“We really need to kick the tires on this and see what works,” Becker said.

For his part, Pickens said he’d be spending $58 million on a multimedia campaign designed to raise awareness of the country’s energy troubles and his plan for fixing them.

He’ll also try to prod the leading presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, to pay more attention to the issue.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis to awaken us from our slumber,” Pickens said. “But once aroused, the American people can accomplish miracles.”

That some may get even richer in the process shouldn’t necessarily deter us from trying.

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PeakOil.com, July 8, 2008

Sweetwater, Texas — Get ready, America, T. Boone Pickens is coming to your living room.

The legendary Texas oilman, corporate raider, shareholder-rights crusader, philanthropist and deep-pocketed moneyman for conservative politicians and causes, wants to drive the United States political and economic agenda.

“We’re paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil. It’s breaking us as a nation, and I want to elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the Number One Issue of the campaign this year,” Pickens says.

Today, Pickens takes the wraps off what he’s calling the Pickens Plan for cutting the United States’ demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade. To promote it, he is bankrolling what his aides say will be the biggest public policy ad campaign ever. You’ll find his plan at www.pickensplan.com.

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DONNA HOFFMAN, Local Contributor at statesman.com, February 14, 2008

Texas needs smart energy solutions. We must transition our economy toward increased efficiency and greater reliance on renewable energy sources – wind, solar, and geothermal in order to address climate change, air pollution, and high fuel cost.

The wind industry is leading this transition. Nationwide, wind power grew by 45% in 2007. For the past two years, Texas has ranked number one in wind power with 4,356 megawatts at wind farms in West Texas and the Panhandle. Wind projects under construction will add another 1,238 megawatts.

The State of Texas should encourage and promote this growth in wind power, and it should also take measures to assure that the wind industry avoids negative impacts to wildlife populations and habitat.

Any industrial activity, even a wind power project, presents the potential for negative environmental impacts, but appropriate regulations or guidelines and technological advances may eliminate or reduce those impacts.

Wind turbine technology has improved greatly since the days when turbine designs were deadly to bird populations. The National Wind Coordinating Committee has mediated national discussions between the wind industry and wildlife biologists that have produced best practices for siting and operating wind projects. Nineteen states have voluntary wind project guidelines. Several states refer to the thorough U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Guidelines that are presently undergoing industry challenge. One state, Hawaii, requires permits for wind projects.

In Texas, the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has been in negotiations between wind industry representatives and conservation groups to create voluntary siting guidelines. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been coordinating negotiations. In order to satisfy investors and attorneys, wind companies would consult with TPWD and adhere to the guidelines.

The Sierra Club recommends the guidelines include: pre-construction research linked to habitat sensitivity criteria, data sharing for wildlife studies, pre-construction mitigation, post-construction research, and operational mitigation.

Unfortunately, the negotiation process is currently at a stalemate.

Conservation groups believe that guidelines are necessary to address concerns about: large, diverse migratory and residential bird populations and sensitive habitats along the Gulf Coast; bat habitat in the Texas Hill Country; and unique wilderness viewsheds like Enchanted Rock.

The lack of guidelines became an issue in September, 2005 when the General Land Office announced its first offshore wind lease – 11,355-acres, seven miles off Galveston Island. This first offshore wind farm in Texas, was set to be built in the most populated migratory bird corridor of North America! The developer Wind Energy Systems Technologies (WEST) has placed a meteorological tower on the site and are said to be collecting wind data. The company contracted a bird study design from a well-respected bird scientist for this project, but has not begun the study. WEST has since leased four more offshore sites in the Gulf from offshore of the southern tip of the state to offshore of the upper coast.

Last year, wildlife groups (including American Bird Conservancy, which has been highly supportive of wind energy) joined the King Ranch to form the Coastal Habitat Alliance (CHA). CHA is concerned about two wind farms — Babcock & Brown and PPM’s projects in the sensitive wetlands of northern Kenedy County. The CHA has filed suit in federal court to force the State of Texas to abide by its agreement with the federal government not to build energy generation facilities in the Coastal Management Zone without a permitting process.

Guidelines based on site sensitivity could steer the wind industry away from problematic sites early in the scoping process and save wind developers time and money.

The Sierra Club has developed a Wind Siting Advisory and will continue to work for voluntary guidelines at TPWD. If that process does not succeed, then prospects for an enforceable permitting process will increase.

The wind industry in Texas needs to make a choice: Do they reject reasonable guidelines for project siting and operation and risk continued controversy and perhaps restrictive regulations? Or do they make a good faith effort to negotiate guidelines that will allow the industry to progress while addressing valid concerns?

We hope the wind industry will choose to remove the albatross by accepting and adhering to meaningful siting and operations guidelines in Texas.

Hoffman is the communications coordinator of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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