While there are some nagging questions, Texas is spending $6.8 billion on new transmission lines to deliver electricity from wind farms in West Texas to its major metro areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
And while it’s certainly a plus for the state, its economy and jobs, that transmission investment also is attracting developers who plan to spend $3.3 billion on new wind farms that will generate 1,633 MW of new capacity in the next two years, according to a story in Sustainable Business.
It’s not entirely unexpected. Texas, ranked third in green jobs, bumped its installed capacity by 18% last year and already has more installed wind capacity than any other state.
But, there are those nagging questions. While the federal production tax credit has been extremely important to the Texas wind industry, so has the state’s Texas Economic Development Act – which expires next year.
For a variety of reasons, including the growth of natural gas, slim budgets and a major Tea Party presence, it’s far from a sure bet the tax incentive will be renewed. And if it isn’t renewed, companies will simply invest elsewhere, some observers say. A bill has been introduced to renew it.
The state’s growing solar industry (in the country’s top 10 for growth) isn’t planning on much state support either.
And speaking of solar…
MIT Technology Review reports that the downturn in the solar market is having the expected consequences: bankruptcies, and not just among startups scrambling for a toehold in the industry. Major Chinese solar panel maker Suntech Power filed for bankruptcy recently, and the story predicts that “all of the world’s largest solar panel makers are in danger of going bankrupt within a year, and the downturn is having an impact on innovation.”
Demand this year is half of available production capacity and it could be more than a year before the two are in balance. With little market for new technologies, solar companies are focusing on cutting installation costs and making efficiency improvements in conventional solar technology to increase power output, which could make them more competitive with fossil fuels.
It’s a grim assessment, but the story explains that how long it takes for supply and demand to be balanced depends on how quickly existing companies fail and drop out, and how quickly new markets take up solar.