Advancing Grid Resiliency for 21st-Century Challenges
Sep 30, 2017 10:59AM
● By Sheila Julson
The recent wrath of Hurricane Harvey reiterates the importance of disaster-resilient energy production such as smart grids powered by renewable energy. In addition to helping reduce emissions, renewables can ease economic fallout out when disaster strikes. In Texas, wind energy proved steadfast, thanks to forward-thinking engineering regarding the design and placement of wind turbine structures and farms.
“Most of the coastal wind farms are south of Corpus Christi, and sustained minimal damage. They are designed to withstand the hurricanes,” says John Spicer, president of Dallas-based Breeze Energy.
Spicer reiterates that Texas is still a stronghold for renewables such as solar and wind power, with wind a dominating force. A July 2017 report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) states there are more than 19,000 megawatts of wind capacity in Texas, and solar has 787 megawatts. “Advancements in renewables may be slightly affected by the production tax credits and investment tax credits that are scheduled to phase out over time, but there’s still a keen interest in developing solar and wind in Texas,” he says.
The international business law firm Latham & Watkins LLP compiled a report stating, “The Consolidated Appropriations Act, which President Obama signed into law on December 18, 2015, re-enacts the production tax credit and investment tax credit for wind energy projects and modifies and extends the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy projects. For both forms, the act provides a five-year extension, with a step-down in the amount of credit available, depending on when construction of a project commences. For solar energy projects, the Act modifies the eligibility rules from a ‘placed-in-service’ requirement to a ‘begun-construction’ requirement, similar to the existing rules for wind energy credits. Assuming the Internal Revenue Service adopts guidance similar to the existing guidance for wind energy credits, the Act’s changes generally will allow developers at least seven years to complete new and existing projects.”
The increasing intensity of natural disasters like Harvey may prompt people to embrace renewables from both a consumer standpoint and a development standpoint, at least in Texas, but other states may be more challenged to employ renewables due to geographic location. “The drivers are more of a wholesale nature, and that hasn’t really changed.” Spicer says. “We just have good infrastructure for development here in Texas compared to other places. On the flip side, Florida has practically no wind farms because they don’t have the market or the wind that Texas has; it’s just where they’re geographically situated, and those market mechanisms don’t match up with what we have here.” Texas has a wholesale structure that allows wind developers to easily sell and deliver the electricity generated.
Some hurdles to the future of renewables could be the tax and investment credit phase-outs, as well as an upcoming trade case regarding solar panel imports into the U.S. Petitioners Suniva, owned by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., along with German-based SolarWorld, both with subsidiaries in the U.S., seek to impose tariffs and a floor price on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules. (Note: the Federal Trade Commission will take up the case September 22, after the October issue of Natural Awakenings Dallas has gone to press.)
Another impact is the potential demise of the Clean Power Plan, which if repealed, could affect some states, but Spicer is optimistic that Texas would not be greatly impacted, due to continued robust growth in wind and solar.
While we try to combat the future affects of natural disasters through resilient energy grids, compassion from individuals and businesses always shines through. Breeze Energy is taking measures to help those impacted by Harvey by waiving late fees, implementing deferred payment plans, donating to relief organizations in the Houston area and directing its customer donations/company match energy assistance program funds toward hurricane relief through the end of the year.
For more information, call 855-391-9463 or visit BreezeEnergy.com.
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.