Environment Texas releases study demonstrating environmental benefits of wind power
AUSTIN – Amid record-breaking drought, wind power in Texas saved 8.6 billion gallons of water last year: enough to fill Lady Bird Lake 3 ½ times, according to a new report released today by Environment Texas. Texas’s wind energy is also avoiding more than 19 million metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution annually — the equivalent of taking more than 4 million cars off the road.
Thanks to its current and future benefits, wind power was the largest source of new electricity capacity added to the grid in 2012 and is a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, investment in energy efficiency, and the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
“Wind energy has given us a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” said Rachel Stone, Clean Energy Attorney of Environment Texas. “Now our state and national leaders need to act to make sure we continue harvesting these environmental benefits.”
The report, Wind Energy for a Cleaner America, shows that wind energy is now providing more than 31.8 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Texas — 7.4 percent of the state’s electricity, and wind energy production in Texas could more than double in the next five years. The report also shows that today’s wind energy in Texas avoids 18,112 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 22,374 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot. Wind also saved enough water to meet the needs of 172,000 people, enough to supply Bryan College Station. If city, state and federal officials commit to continued progress, Texas could reduce the carbon pollution equivalent of more than 7.6 million passenger vehicles, and save enough water to meet the annual water needs of nearly 350,000 people.
“Wind power has provided major economic benefits for Texas, and Houston — including clean energy jobs and investment in our local economy,” said Laura Spanjian, sustainability director for the City of Houston. “Let’s not dismiss the important environmental benefits. The water savings are critical to our local environment and our economy.”
Texas’ recent progress on wind is the direct result of federal incentives for wind power, a Texas law requiring the production of 5,880 Megawatts of renewable energy by 2015 (a standard the state has already more than doubled) and the construction of new transmission lines to windy parts of the state, scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Despite the clear benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their political allies have vigorously opposed these initiatives.
The main federal incentives for wind – the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) – are currently set to expire at the end of 2013.
“Wind energy is improving our quality of life in Texas,” said Stone. “We cannot let polluters and their allies stand in the way of additional benefits of wind. We need to do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.”