Archive for August 9th, 2011

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is expecting to keep rolling blackouts at bay this week.  While we came perilously close to having statewide rolling blackouts last week, it turns out, coastal wind power proved helpful in averting an electric crisis then, according to ERCOT’s president.

Unlike wind farms in West Texas, which tend to generate more power at night, coastal wind generation has been better tracking peak daytime demands.

As demand ramps up in the late afternoon hours, coastal wind is also ramping up.  ERCOT President H.B. Trip Doggett, who briefly occupied the hot seat following rolling blackouts that occurred in February due to an unusual cold weather event which took out several coal and gas plants (albeit, once again wind was in there helping to keep the lights on) has a renewed interest in what renewables can do to help stabilize the Texas electric grid during peak power demand under hot weather circumstances.  In fact, he told reporters, “We would love to have more development of coastal wind. The diversity of coastal wind versus West Texas wind is an advantage to us in operating the grid.”

Last week, when the ERCOT grid came extremely close to initiating involuntary rolling blackouts across the state, wind generation kicked into higher production. While wind produced around 1,300 megawatts on Monday, it rose to about 2,000 megawatts on Wednesday with 70 percent of that coming from coastal rather than West Texas wind.  During the February cold weather event, it was West Texas wind that helped keep the lights on, so let’s hear it for wind.

And consider that if we had solar deployed across the state, we could better handle these huge peak demand times without having to increase air pollution.  When the demand rises this high, conventional coal-fired plants are allowed to turn their scrubbers off to increase the efficiency of the plants so they can generate more energy.  Also, old higher polluting plants are sometimes fired up to put more electricity on the grid and you can imagine what they do to the air quality.

If ERCOT is beginning to see the value of wind and solar under these circumstances, perhaps it is time to remind our elected officials that renewables could make Texas’ energy future so bright, we gotta wear shades.

ERCOT officials forecast that triple-digit temperatures will continue at least 14 more days. While they believe this week looks good for meeting electric demands, we are not out of the woods yet, and ERCOT is saying next week remains to be seen.

Public Citizen applauds everyone who is doing their part to reduce electric usage and encourages everyone to continue their efforts.

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According to the Fox news station in Salt Lake City, UT, controversy has arisen about EnergySolutions’ plans to dispose of what they call blended radioactive waste at its Clive Facility in the west desert of Utah.

There are three classifications of waste: A, B and C, all radioactive. Only the lowest level, type A, is allowed in Utah, but Energy Solutions says it’s found a way to blend and store the waste safely by mixing higher-level class C waste with low-level waste and labeling it class A – are you buying this, cause I’m pretty skeptical and it just sounds like fiction to me.  This magic would take place at a facility in Tennessee according to EnergySolutions.

EnergySolutions may have found a legal loophole that would allow them to store higher level radioactive waste at the Clive facility, but ultimately, the Utah Division of Radiation Control will decide whether the blended waste can be disposed in Utah.

In the meantime, William Dornsife, executive vice president of WCS, the Texas company building a radioactive waste disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas is telling Utah to bring it on. He wants the waste to go to Texas, not Utah.

Texas is licensed to take class A, B and C waste without the blending alchemy that EnergySolutions is proposing, and there is a lot of money at stake — potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.  WCS and billionaire Harold Simmons are salivating at the opportunity to spend what they probably see as the political capital with which they walked away from the 82nd Texas legislative session earlier this year to rake in the profits at the expense and liability of the Texas taxpayer.

Face it Texas, we are now the radioactive waste capital of the country.

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