"Texas needs more plants like STP to generate base load" by: Mike Reddell

  The prolonged heat days this summer have strained the reserve capacity of ERCOT to the point of warnings to all Texans to cut usage whenever possible, such as raising the thermostat.
   JEC General Manager Jim Coleman told a group of business and government leaders Friday morning that ERCOT – Texas electricity grid – was expected to be at peak usage levels on that day.
   ERCOT has been at the point twice so far this summer where there’s nearly not enough capacity on the grid. Once we reach capacity, then ERCOT is forced to consider rolling outages throughout the state to force reduce usage.
   One contributing factor is wind and solar generation being intermittent, might be down at the point when their contributions are needed in high energy demand situations.
   “The wind might not be blowing,” Coleman said.
   Coleman brought up a troubling reality in energy generation in Texas – and for America.
   The base load plants like STP that are the backbone of providing energy capacity to ERCOT aren’t being built – investors are placing their money on smaller natural gas plants that can be switched on and off to support the wind and solar power.
   That’s not the case for big base load plants. 
   These plants can be reduced but not shut off, even when they are losing money in the economic dispatch of power by ERCOT.
   Coal plants in Texas are going offline – partly because of environmental concerns and mostly because investors have pulled out.
   While the state’s two nuclear plants, STP and Comanche Peak, have solid, reliable and safe operations, investors are pulling back.
   You can go to the ERCOT website and track the capacity levels that are updated every 60 seconds and see for yourself.
   In July, those capacity levels dipped near the 0 capacity line from 2 to 6 p.m.
   At the same meeting, County Judge Nate McDonald told about some troubling news of hazardous waste disposal plans near Altair from waste collection giant WCA, which has Bay City’s waste collection franchise.
   WCA proposes a hazardous waste disposal operation in the gravel pits that abound near Altair – created long ago by the Colorado River.
   There will be a clay base underneath, but several people question the lifespan of that.
   The WCA deal is working its way through the permit process - an upcoming public hearing on September 11 will not allow local or state elected officials to speak, as reported by Colorado County Judge Ty Prause.
   Also troubling is the fact the WCA proposed site isn’t that far from where another hazardous materials firm was dumping – yes, illegally – into Skull Creek, which is a Colorado River tributary.
   Stopping that lousy outfit cost about $1 million and the WCA proposal could be closer to $2 million to fight, McDonald said.
   Several people at the meeting asked what they could do to protest the WCA proposal.
   Contacting our State Rep. Dennis Bonnen and State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst are good places to start.
   Finally, I decided to take an unscientific study of the signal light at Sixth Street and Avenue F downtown.
   If you’re on Sixth and waiting for the light to change on F, you generally have to wait about 15 or 20 minutes.
   The green light for Sixth Street traffic there lasts about seven nanoseconds – roughly the time it would take a fighter jet to scream through the intersection.


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