Having noticed several months ago that my hometown of Denton, north of Dallas-Ft.Worth has the distinction “of being the city with the most wind power per capita in the country” made this energy and climate hawk a bit proud, in a state where my more Progressive views are often over shadowed by red-state rhetoric. However, not even the conservative population that predominates here can argue against the fact that their home district has overall lower electric rates than some of their big city neighbors; thanks in large part to a “green” approach by their utility supplier, Denton Municipal Electric (DME), to find and utilize renewable sources of energy and programs that reduce consumption.
It’s hard to argue with Denton’s efforts to contain and even reduce electrical rates for homeowners and businesses. Currently they are in a fight to keep their costs down in one area where the energy source is not renewable, clean energy. Approximately 20% of DMEs energy comes from the Gibbons Creek coal plant in Carlos, Texas located between College Station and Huntsville. The coal is being transported 1400 miles from Wyoming and the railroad transporter based out of Ft. Worth, BNSF Railway, wants to increase their rates that would add approximately $4 extra dollars a month to each customer’s bill.
In a day and age where climate deniers and opponents of renewable energy tout cheap coal prices, this indirect increase as a result of transportation costs highlights the problem of any continued use of this dirtier source of energy. Not only does the Gibbons Creek plant add an additional 2231 tons of nitrous oxide into our air but the energy expended bringing the coal in from Wyoming adds to this pollutant that scientist are saying not only has an impact on the public’s general health but impacts climate changes resulting from a damaged ozone layer in our stratosphere.
As I noted in a piece back in January entitled “Who Needs an Ozone Layer?”, Ozone (O3) is a molecule made up of 3 atoms. Unlike it’s cousin O2 that is essential for life on the planet Ozone is much less stable and can pose a threat to inhabitants at ground level. However, when found in the upper atmosphere it benefits humans and all animal and plant species by serving as a barrier to protect us against excessive solar UV rays. It is mostly the results of the sun’s UV rays combining with O2 in our stratosphere but when found closer to earth it develops when sun light reacts with air containing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Though always present even before the Industrial revolution it now exists in higher concentrations than historical records reveal.
Ozone only makes up 0.00006% of the earth’s atmosphere but it’s utility to prevent catastrophic conditions on earth make it a vital natural barrier to preserve our ecosystem and by default, our very way of life. The fear three decades ago was that the man-made green house gases (GHGs) of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from aerosol cans and freon then being used for cooling units in our homes, cars and refrigerators were literally burrowing a hole in the Ozone layer, allowing excessive UV rays to reach earth’s surface and amplifying global warming conditions around the planet. This amplified heat in turn breaks down Ozone in the atmosphere, further reducing it’s solar reflective abilities needed to sustain life here.
Thus the need to reduce toxic pollutants that contaminate our air and water and threaten human and animal life is a target that the City of Denton has taken aim at. Their use of wind energy seeks to supply up to 40% of the electrical power to the community by purchasing the renewable source from the “Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which owns and operates more than 8,000 energy turbines in 16 states and Canada, including the Wolf Ridge wind farm near Muenster” according to DME spokeswoman Lisa Lemmons.
Ms. Lemmons also described other benefits to their programs in an article published recently in the local Denton Record-Chronicle. “The city … has a power-purchase agreement with DTE Energy to take 1.6 megawatts from its landfill-gas-to-energy project at the Denton landfill. The project has the capacity to triple its energy production as the quality and capacity of methane gas increases over time, she said.
DME’s GreenSense energy efficiency program includes rebates of up to $15,000 for people who install solar panels on their homes or businesses.” Add this to a current 30% IRS energy tax credit for solar investments and not only are overall expenses cut by 2/3’s but the out of pocket pay back period for customers is significantly reduced from the current average of 10 years.
These solar panels not only save consumers money on their electric bill but they also put energy back into the grid helping keep general costs lower for everybody. What currently is installed in Denton has “added about 57 kilowatts of solar energy to DME’s electric system”, according to Ms.Lemmon.
With a Congress unwilling to deal with an effective energy policy that seeks out cheaper, renewal energy sources over oil, coal and natural gas it falls on the states and local communities to address their needs for reliable sources of energy that can carry them well into the 21st century. Denton stands as a model on how to achieve this for any and all who are serious about keeping energy costs down instead of waiting for the federal government to act.