- Texas continues to have problems delivering sufficient electric generation despite record amounts of wind and solar being deployed.
- Wind and solar are inherently intermittent, and work when the weather prevails.
- Wind turbine blades are becoming a huge waste problem in some states, as the Obama Administration allowed wind operators to continue receiving subsidies if they repowered.
The Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked consumers to conserve electricity again on August 27 as the state was impacted by a persistent heat wave as well as low wind power and solar generation. Texas is the number one producer of wind energy in the country and the second largest producer of solar energy—both politically correct power sources, according to the Biden administration. More conservation appeals were made in the following days. The fragility of the Texas grid was highlighted in 2021, when a massive blackout killed dozens and left millions without power, water and heat for days due to freezing temperatures and a sharp decline in wind generation as wind blades froze.
On Saturday, August 20, ERCOT had set a new all-time weekend peak demand record of 84,805 megawatts. In 2022, the August peak demand was 78,465 megawatts. This summer, ERCOT has set 10 new all-time peak demand records, and more may still come. Last summer, ERCOT set 11 new peak demand records.
Wind and Solar Power in Texas
In 2022, Texas led the nation in utility-scale wind-powered electricity generation, producing more than one-fourth of the U.S. total. In 2011, Texas was the first, and until 2020 the only, state to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity. By February 2023, Texas had nearly 40,000 megawatts of wind capacity, which was more than one-fourth of the state’s utility-scale generating capacity and almost three fourths of its total renewable generating capacity, including from small-scale (less than 1 megawatt) solar installations. In 2022, Texas was the country’s second-largest solar producer, after California. Solar PV capacity at the state’s large- and small-scale facilities rose to more than 13,500 megawatts in early 2023. Solar energy accounted for about 5 percent of the state’s total electricity generation in 2022. Small-scale solar facilities provided about one-eighth of that total.
Texas Wind Plants Come at a Price: Massive Waste
About forty miles west of Abilene on Interstate 20 lies what maybe the world’s largest collection of unwanted wind turbine blades in a town called Sweetwater. The blades are between 150 and 200 feet in length and mostly made of composite materials such as fiberglass with a binding resin. The blades are cut into thirds and each segment is longer than a school bus. The pile of wind blades covers more than thirty acres, in stacks rising as high as basketball backboards. Other used blades are being stored in ten acres a couple miles south of town, and in other locations in the county.
The piles are partly the indirect result of a rule clarification the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued in 2016 at the end of the Obama Administration. Before then, a wind farm could collect federal tax credits for only its first ten years of operation. But the IRS restarted the clock on the credits if a wind farm repowered its turbines, replacing most of their equipment with newer parts. Despite the expected twenty-year lifespan for turbine blades, wind farms across Texas and other states began replacing many that were in good shape years earlier to get the added years of the tax credit.
In 2017, Global Fiberglass Solutions, a company based in Washington State, announced its intention to recycle blades from wind farms across the region, but instead has stockpiled them. The company was planning to ground up the blades into a reusable material that could be turned into pallets, railroad ties, or flooring panels. The company set up shop in an empty industrial facility in Sweetwater that was once an aluminum recycling plant, but only a handful of blades have been ground up there so far.
Global Fiberglass has also stockpiled 1,300 blades in Newton, Iowa, and two other cities in that state, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. In 2021, after an investigation, the agency concluded there was no recycling going on, nor was any likely to happen, declaring the company to be running an unpermitted dump. By July 2021, the company owed more than $1 million in unpaid rent in Newton.
In Texas, the company failed to pay taxes to Nolan County in 2020 and is three years in arrears, according to tax records. Last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined the company $10,255 for what it described as illegally stored solid waste. It allowed the company to pay the penalty in monthly installments for three years. In June, Global Fiberglass defaulted.
In Newton, a city employee indicated that General Electric recently acquired the blades. It is unclear, however, whether GE purchased them from Global Fiberglass or from the landlord who was owed $1 million in rent, who may have taken possession of the blades. The city was promised that they would be sent to a recycling center by the end of the year, although none had been removed by mid-August.
Texas has invested in onshore wind with about 40,000 megawatts installed. But, those wind turbines have not stopped the grid operator from asking consumers to conserve power as the intermittency of wind and solar power has caused possible blackout conditions with a persistent heat wave pounding the state. Wind and solar are the Biden administration’s preferred, politically correct generating technologies, and receive the bulk of all federal energy subsidies. But as consumers in Texas can attest, wind turbines and solar panels are not reliable generators as they are weather-driven. Further, wind is causing massive waste dumps because its blades are being dropped instead of recycled as planned. The blade piles are forming quicker than expected as the IRS has allowed repowered turbines to get an extra ten years of the federal tax credit, with blade replacement occurring much earlier than needed.