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Coal Plants Face Battle in Drought-Stricken Texas

The Texas drought has eroded public support for new coal-fired power plants there, according to the Boston Globe.

Proposed plants throughout the state are facing stiff opposition from farmers, ranchers, shrimpers and residents, who cite the huge amount of water that power facilities require. Nor are these typical protesters: many of them are political conservatives who don’t take issue with fossil fuels themselves, just with the plants’ drain on water resources.

Some plants, such as the White Stallion Energy Center planned for Bay City, are also having trouble securing water supply from their local utilities. Recently, that company announced it would use a more expensive dry cooling method, expected to reduce its water needs by about 85 percent.

Texas businesses have already been hit hard by the drought. Ranchers have been forced to buy in hay from other states and reduce the size of their herds. The drought killed much of the year’s cotton crop, leading Gap to cut its profit forecast by 22 percent.

According to a University of Texas study, power plants’ water needs in the state are set to rise from about 187 billion gallons in 2000 to about 287 billion in 2020 – even as the state projects that water supplies will drop..

In some ways, Texas is at the forefront of renewable energy. For years, it has boasted the most installed wind capacity of any state, encouraged in part by strong policy. Last year its wind capacity totaled over 10 GW, far eclipsing second-place Iowa’s 3.6 GW.

On the EPA’s list of top green power purchasers, by annual green power usage, the city of Houston places fourth, Austin places seventh, and Dallas places tenth. They are the only municipalities on the list until the District of Columbia at 17th.

But with a big population and hot summers, the state also has a high electricity load. It ranks ninth in the nation for the percentage of its total electricity generation to come from wind, at 5.1 percent.

Picture credit: dasroofless

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