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November 2012 Letters

TCP Talk

Letters and comments from our readers

Wind Energy

As a follow-up to the very favorable “The Windup…” article [August], it is essential that fellow co-op members understand some of the other key considerations for industrial wind energy production. Some of those considerations are:

• Wind energy is highly variable. The article highlighted a record wind energy production of 8,368 MW in the ERCOT region on June 19. On August 11, hourly wind energy production was as low as 230 MW during the early afternoon and averaged about 1,710 MW for the day. In addition, large wind energy generation penetration levels can introduce a variety of grid operational challenges.

• ERCOT plans on having only 8.7 percent of wind energy capacity available to meet peak demand requirements. Wind energy produces the least in the late summer when air conditioning-related demand peaks. That means that 91 percent of the wind capacity has to be backed up by other more reliable sources of generation, such as natural gas.

• Wind energy is highly dependent on subsidies. At the federal level, wind energy production qualifies for a 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour tax credit for the first 10 years of operation. The pretax value of the credit to a wind development investor can exceed the 2012 year-to-date equivalent wholesale power price in the ERCOT region. The wind energy industry predicts dire consequences if the credit is not extended beyond the end of 2012. The credit has been in place for most of the past 20 years. Wind energy production also receives renewable energy credits as the result of the state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standard. At the local level, county and school district property tax abatements are common.

• Wind energy installations are massive. One of the number of wind farms in the Abilene/Sweetwater area covers nearly 100,000 acres, or more than 150 square miles. Some wind turbines are taller than the 425-foot main dome at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

• Ratepayers, not wind developers, pay grid transmission costs. The article referenced the state mandated competitive renewable energy zone grid transmission system additions that are being made to move wind energy from remote areas in West Texas and the Panhandle to the metropolitan areas in the state. The additions were originally expected to cost about $4.9 billion or about $4 per month per retail customer. The current cost outlook is $6.9 billion.

It is important that everyone has a fair balance of considerations in which to form educated opinions and to take related actions. Hopefully, this additional information will help achieve those objectives.

Robert Weatherford, President, Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment, Central Texas EC

Wind power is not all clean and economically friendly energy. It is heavily subsidized by the U.S. and Texas governments. Otherwise no company would invest in the projects. They do not make economic sense.

They involve the massive destruction of trees—mowed down and shredded to make way for hundreds of miles of transmission lines. Land use and the privacy of hundreds of landowners are taken for the lines.

Neighbors are affected by the view of wind generators and the hundreds of transmission towers. They are not compensated or even asked.

John van Moort, Pedernales EC

Research will show that wind farms are terribly inefficient and require substantial taxpayer subsidies. Despite the subsidies, the cost per kilowatt is still higher than coal, oil or natural gas; and we electric customers pay for this foolishness not only through our income taxes but also through our utility bills.

Jimmy Jackson, San Patricio EC

Water Issues

The “Water for All?” [August] issue should be read by everyone in Texas. Water is a critical issue, and changes in attitude and laws need to be made now. Our groundwater districts were created to protect our well water, yet the rule of capture allows the districts to be sued if they impose water withdrawal limitations on large users.

Terry Fender, Cooke County EC

I am so glad Camille Wheeler [“Water For All?”] addressed reverse osmosis/desalinization technology. I lived on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for six years—an area that is a sand bar set essentially 50 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. All of my public water came from an RO/desalinization facility that converted seawater into fresh, crisp drinking water.

Having now lived on Texas’ Coastal Bend for the past four years—a semiarid climate with half the rain of North Carolina, I wonder why we rely on Lake Corpus Christi and Choke Canyon for water and why we don’t have RO plants up and down the coast. It’s about time Texas started to consider this technology to harness the vastness of the Gulf and help sustain our rapidly growing population.

Renée Kozak-Hellberg, Nueces EC

It is irresponsible not to educate readers about the water contamination and obscene use of fresh water used in hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of injecting a mixture of water, chemicals and sand underground to create fractures through which natural gas can flow for collection.

Fracking requires millions of gallons of fresh water for each well. The water will be contaminated with chemicals and cannot be cleaned and reclaimed for safe drinking. Instead it is injected under extreme pressure into wastewater wells. These wells can cause great risk for further groundwater contamination and have been associated with causing the many minor earthquakes that Texans are experiencing.

Lane Gosnay, Fayette EC

I enjoyed your “Water for All?” edition. The western half of our state is essentially a desert and not meant for green lawns and near-tropical plants.

We must be careful with any laws or governmental organizations we create to regulate water use. Any increase in government power is a loss to our freedom. All new governing bodies—aquifer districts, for example—should be created only by the Legislature. This gives the people of Texas time to express their opinions to their legislators.

Jason Lovell, Pedernales EC

To say that I was shocked by Andrew Sansom’s “Water is Life” is an understatement. I take exception to the paragraph that reads: “In this regard, most water rights in Texas are dedicated to agricultural use for irrigation, and much of this use remains antiquated and inefficient. The inefficiency magnifies a conundrum: While so much of our water is committed to agriculture, a sector of our economy that is basically flat, municipal growth is booming and thus producing the greatest future demands for water.”

The only statement I agree with is that last part. First of all, to say most of the water rights are for agriculture is wrong. Cities all over the state have large permits for water. Secondly, he suggests that most agricultural irrigation is antiquated. I’m sure there are many farmers who will take exception to that statement. Furthermore, while taking a shot at agriculture, he says nothing about millions of homes in cities wasting water with inefficient water systems to water carpet grass and fill swimming pools. Lastly, he dismisses agriculture as a waste of water. I wonder whether he realizes a good portion of the food he eats comes from Texas agriculture.

As a co-op agency formed to represent rural customers, I can’t believe you would print such a one-sided article.

Perry Donop, Central Texas EC

Rural Texans have known for decades that there is a water crisis looming. I was disturbed greatly by the obvious antilandowner bias of two of the authors. They portrayed rural landowners as the greedy “haves,” cheating the cities full of “have-nots” of this precious resource.

Andrew Sansom declares that the water issue has been “exacerbated by a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling that declared that underground water is the property of private landowners.” Yes, landowners welcomed the court’s decision as a possible end to the “might makes right” attitude of the big municipalities.

Joe Nick Patoski’s “It’s All the Same Water” states that the rule of capture “may work well for property owners … but not so great for the rest of the population that relies on water as a life source.” What do you think landowners use water for? I would argue that using water to produce food is exactly the correct way to use the life source—certainly a better use than keeping a lush St. Augustine lawn.

The Edwards Aquifer is probably the most regulated water source in Texas. Putting in a well is an arduous process of permits, fees and inspections; and every well has a meter. And for a landowner to pump out of the Edwards (water he or she supposedly owns), one must first buy pre-existing pumping rights from someone who is willing to sell.

When our two shallow wells went dry because of the ongoing drought, we shopped around with many different well drillers and were quoted $160,000 to $180,000 for an Edwards well. Not having that kind of pocket change, we now haul in every drop of water for the animals and ourselves by trailer.

T.B. Gates, Medina EC

Could you please serve up more scare tactics! First, we just had the worst drought in 100 years, so it is going to take some time. Second, why don’t you ask T. Boone Pickens and Nestle Waters in Hawkins for water? Third, let’s not turn into bankrupt and corrupt California. I’ve been there and done that. I moved (12 years ago).

I am a small farmer who owns my land and the water beneath it. You are not entitled to it just because you live in the desert. If you want my water, the fight is on.

Laura Valdez, Taylor EC

Thank you for publishing these informative articles. I hope some people change their water-wasting habits after reading them. The Texas State Supreme Court should reverse their recent ruling that allows the property owners to pump as much water as they want from the ground under their property, especially under our current drought conditions.

Judy Gustaferro, Pedernales EC

I highly recommend everyone read the articles on the state of the water supply here in Texas. This issue is timely and eye-opening.

Jill Nolan, Guadalupe Valley EC

Water is Life” is right on the point. I especially like what Andrew Sansom said about us not being able to build our way out of the box canyon we’ve run ourselves into. At least not in the “traditional” sense, we can’t. What we can do to blunt the problem is begin to build smarter and do things like “readjusting” our perspectives.

David Venhuizen, Austin

Kudos! Thank you so much for all of the articles. I found them to be very informative, educational and eye-opening. Being a native Texan, I’ve learned so much about our precious water and how we need to start planning on saving it now. I’m sending all of the articles to friends and family in hopes that they will join us in our efforts to conserve.

Hedi Goodwin, San Bernard EC

In “Water is Life,” Andrew Sansom offers this quote: “You can go without cable TV. You can even go without air conditioning, but you can’t go without water.”

Boy, I would like to see someone go without air conditioning the way this summer was. I was without air conditioning. I live in my late parents’ house and it was never wired for air conditioning, and I suffered with the heat and high humidity. There were days I didn’t think I’d survive. This was the worst summer of heat and high humidity that I’ve ever experienced. I never drank so much ice water in my life.

Sandra Schladoer, Pedernales EC

I was extremely disappointed that the August issue did not address the millions of gallons of water lost by use of private swimming pools. While I haul buckets of stored rainwater, I hear the constant splash of swimming pool owners. If we could provide the incentive for pool developers to become rainwater installation experts, we would all win.

Linda Hansen, Pedernales EC

Heart of the Matter

The Texas Almanac may want to check its facts about where the heart of Texas is [“Where is the heart of Texas,” August]. On U.S. 84, 10 miles east of Goldthwaite, is a little place called Center City. At Center City there was an oak tree with a plaque placed by the State of Texas that said that oak tree had been calculated to be the exact center of Texas [based on an early 1870s survey, according to The Handbook of Texas Online]. Hence the name Center City.

Curtis Horton, United Cooperative Services

Volunteer Camping

Many thanks for “Campground Comrades” [February]. It got me motivated to send out volunteer applications. I was called back on all three that I sent out and took one at Heron Lake State Park in New Mexico. There are many parks that need volunteers, and if you are powered by solar or generator, you will be in big demand.

I am having a great time and meeting lots of new and interesting full-timers. No more hot Texas summers for me. I plan to come back again next year, and then who knows what opportunities are out there after that? I brought my dogs with me, and they help out, too!

Libby Handley, Pedernales EC