This month, our Texas Energy News is all up in the air with mining pollutants from the sky, the future of solar farms and if panels will be painted out, and why ERCOT and a pair of Houston generator companies are getting all strung-out over a transmission line to power Houston.
Texas Company To Mine the Sky…?
On October 21, Skyonic Corporation opened the Capitol SkyMine. The world’s first “commercial-scale carbon capture and utilization facility”, the SkyMine captures CO2, SOX, NO2, and mercury and other heavy metals from generator flue gases and turns them into hydrochloric acid, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and other byproducts. Designed to capture around 75,000 tonnes (82,673 US tons) of CO2, the $125 million installation scrubs flue gases from Capitol Aggregates cement mill in San Antonio and is expected to make $48 million in revenue and $28 million in annual earnings from greenhouse gases that otherwise would be released into the air. Skyonic’s mineralization technology is scaleable, allowing power plants to adjust the amount of CO2 scrubbing from 10% to 99% (depending on plant capability) and can be used to replace existing scrubbing systems and virtually eliminate their associated costs.
Tax Deadline Driving Texas’ Sunny Solar Future?
There’s been lots of recent talk about building more solar photovoltaic farms in Texas. Texas may be the US wind generation leader but has only about 75 megawatts of utility-sized capacity. Yet, financial services firm Ernst & Young recently ranked Texas 6th for solar energy potential, saying:
“Texas…has the most untapped solar potential in the country…That could change soon as ground was just broken on a project that will generate 400 MW of solar power by 2016 making it the largest municipal solar project in the US to date.”
Now, that 400 MW project (the Alamo project) AND the report has set a lot of chins wagging about the sunny side of Texas solar, including the Motley Fool and the City of San Antonio which intends on becoming a national leader in solar technology. Even Xcel Energy recently invited bids for its own 200 MW installation. But before you start thinking even flint-hearted investors have succumbed to the sunny charms of renewable energy, remember that the solar investment tax credit slams the door shut at the end of 2016.
Will Paint Make Panels Passé?
Lucelo Technologies, a Texas company based in Austin, has been busy developing solar paint. Instead of pigment floating in a solvent solution, Lucelo puts nano-crystals that absorb sunlight. While the actual process of collecting the electricity from a coated surface still needs to be worked out (the efficiency is only around 3%, panels run between 15%- 20%), it’s fun to think about the small current applications. House or car paints that power LED lights, clothing dyes that power personal electronics, and even new distractions on packaging.
Image IMG_2139.JPG By pedrojperez courtesy of Morguefile
Texas Power Companies Wired Over Wires
Two Texas electric generation companies, NRG and Calpine, have been battling ERCOT and Centerpoint to stop the $590 million “Houston Import Project” since July. The 130 mile Limestone–Gibbons Creek–Zenith 345-kV transmission line project is designed to bring more electricity to the Houston metro area. Some have estimated that the area’s population will soon begin adding 100,000 new residents a year and all that new electrical demand will overload current capacity. ERCOT believes the project needs to be in place by 2018 to maintain reliability and prevent blackouts. NRG and Calpine, meanwhile are criticizing the methodology legitimizing the project and are arguing the added capacity isn’t needed. They maintain that more generators will be built in the Houston area once wholesale electricity prices rise. Lawyers for both sides debated the project before the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) on October 17.
All ERCOT customer will pay a share of the project’s cost. CenterPoint estimates an extra 35 to 40 cents will be added to residential customers’ monthly bills. Meanwhile, the PUCT is expected to rule on the project November 14.