Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
There’s a typically hyper, deceptive, and Pollyanna article in the Houston Chronicle with the headline “Texas has enough sun and wind to quit coal, Rice researchers say“. You gotta watch out for these folks, it’s the old bait and switch.
Because sure enough, as they say, there’s more sun and wind in Texas than would be required to quit coal. But then, there’s enough sun alone to quit everything. Texas uses about 450 terawatt-hours (million megawatt-hours) of electricity per year. And there are about a million terawatt-hours of sunshine falling on Texas every year. In short, every year the sun pours down on Texas about two thousand times the amount of energy that Texas uses in the form of electricity.
So there’s more than enough sun and wind, just as they say … but is it economical to harvest it? That’s the real question.
Let’s start by looking at the evolution of the fuel mix in Texas over time. Figure 1 shows the situation from 1990 to 2016.
Figure 1. Evolution of Texas electricity sources by fuel, 1990 – 2016. Other biomass includes agricultural byproducts, landfill gas, biogenic municipal solid waste, other biomass (solid, liquid and gas) and sludge waste. Other gases include blast furnace gas, and other manufactured and waste gases derived from fossil fuels. Other includes non-biogenic municipal solid waste, batteries, chemicals, hydrogen, pitch, purchased steam, sulfur, tire-derived fuels, waste heat, and miscellaneous technologies. Note: Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, “Power Plant Operations Report” and predecessor forms.
Recall that we set out to see if Texas wind energy is economical. I note that the US Congress is up in arms about whether to spend five billion dollars or less on a border wall … and meanwhile, we’ve already wasted over seven billion dollars in US taxpayer subsidies to prop up the Texas wind producers.
Note that this sum was paid, not just by the Texans who will presumably benefit from it, but by every taxpayer—including taxpayers who live in states where there is no wind energy generated.
In addition, Texas has had to spend an additional seven billion dollars to upgrade and extend their grid out to the remote locations where the wind is blowing. So we’ve blown fourteen billion on this nonsense.
The other deception in the Houston Chronicle article involves solar energy. Over the years we’ve spent billions of dollars propping up the solar industry … and at the end of all of that, solar is a measly two-tenths of one percent of the Texas electricity generated. Two-tenths of one lousy percent! On the graph above, it’s too small to even see.
It has cost us fourteen billion taxpayer dollars to provide 13% of Texas electricity … and all that we’ve gotten from that is some unreliable wind power that requires gas-powered backup generation for when the wind doesn’t blow.
So yes, as the headline said, Texas has enough sun and wind to quit coal … but at a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies per 1% of the total generation, it is totally and completely uneconomical to use it.
This is my shocked face … the only good news is that the US Federal windpower subsidies are supposed to end in the next couple of years. Well, that is, unless the Trump Administration caves in to the predictable pressure from the wind parasites and extends the subsidy …
It’s enough to make a man say bad words … not that I would do such a thing, you understand … in public, at least …
Best wishes to all,
PS—Misunderstandings are the curse of the intarwebs. When you comment, please quote the exact words that you are referring to, so we can all know who and what you are discussing.