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Renewable energy in Texas: resources and demand.

Renewables are those energy resources delivered in the form of sunshine, wind, plants (biomass), heat inside the earth (geothermal), and water movement (hydropower), including falling water and tidal movements. Until the last 150 years, most of human history was fueled by renewable energy.

Renewable Resources

Renewable energy is potentially the largest resource in Texas. However, the existing infrastructure to capture that resource is minimal. Hydropower currently provides 529 megawatts (MW) of capacity and 700,000 megawatt hours (Mwh) of electrical energy, or 0.008 quadrillion Btus (Q). While most hydropower potential in Texas has been utilized, some untapped low-head hydro sites and generator additions at existing sites are technically and economically feasible, bringing the total hydro potential capacity to 1,000 MW.

The best solar sites in Texas can produce the equivalent of 800 barrels of oil per acre annually. A central receiver power plant could produce 100 MW for nine hours daily, using 1.5 square miles of solar collectors. There are 27,000 square miles of Texas land suitable for such plants, according to a University of Houston report. If just 5 percent of this land were dedicated to solar plants, it would produce 90 gigawatts of electricity. Assuming current electric prices (6.5 cents per kilowatt hour average statewide) and technology, this would be sufficient to electrify the entire state at current rates of consumption (250 million megawatt hours, or 2.9 Q).

The wind potential in the state far exceeds current electricity consumption. If the state's windier areas (lands with an average wind speed of 11.5 miles per hour |mph~ and higher) are included, the potential is 250,000 megawatts (MW); on lands with wind speeds averaging above 12.5 mph (located primarily in the Panhandle), the potential is 130,000 MW. From the windiest areas of the state, the recoverable resource for wind is estimated at 280 billion kilowatt hours annually (3.3 Q). This would come from 130,000 MW of wind turbines, operating at 25 percent capacity factor. The wind turbines would occupy less than 5 percent of the land area, with the balance usable for ranching and farming.
Annual Renewable Energy Potential Using Current Technology

Resource Annual resource potential Economic potential
 (trillion Btu) (trillion Btu)

Solar 50,000 |is greater than~2,900
Wind 6,346 3,300
Biomass 2,300 |is greater than~1,150

Source: STEPP Renewable Energy Committee, Final Report,
December 1992.

Recoverable biomass energy from agricultural wastes, municipal waste, and energy crops is estimated sufficient to provide fuel for 2.3 Q, just less than the current total annual electric consumption in Texas.

The future production of these resources depends not only on price and technology, but on public policy as well. The international Global Climate Change Treaty executed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 calls for developed nations to reduce carbon dioxide (C|O.sub.2~) emissions to 1990 levels. Because the predominant greenhouse gas, C|O.sub.2~, is emitted in the combustion of nonrenewable fuels, renewable resources could help meet the world's energy needs without aggravating the C|O.sub.2~ problem.

The Demand for Renewable Energy

Renewable energy technologies are benign from a C|O.sub.2~ emissions standpoint. The world demand for renewables has been growing steadily and, in light of the 1992 Global Climate Change Treaty, will increase.

Worldwide production of photovoltaics--the technology that converts sunlight to electricity in a silicon cell--is approximately 50 megawatts (MW). U.S. production is over 20 MW. This represents an annual growth rate of 30-35 percent for the past several years. U.S. demand for solar thermal electric plants is increasing, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has set a national goal of 1,500 MW of photovoltaics installed by the year 2000, thus creating a potentially substantial future market.

Presently there are over 2,000 MW of installed wind electricity capacity in the world, with 75 percent of that in California. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 provides a 1.5 cent/kwh tax credit for electricity generated by wind power. The projected cost of electricity is 4 cents/kwh from the U.S. DOE Advanced Wind Turbine Program (turbines now being developed). Currently there is only one Texas manufacturer of advanced wind turbines. Texas manufacturers of mechanical wind-powered water pumps sell about 2,000 units annually, half of which are sold in state. Besides the potential in Texas (5,000 MW would be a 10 percent penetration of the state's electrical generation capacity), there is a growing market in other states and the world.

COPYRIGHT 1993 University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Business Research
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Texas Business Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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