Renewable energies are those forms of energy that derive from the natural movements and mechanisms of the environment - sunshine, wind, the heat of the earth, the growth of plants and animals, the movement of the seas and rivers. Prior to the industrial revolution, these sources were virtually the only forms of energy used by man. During the past 150 years, modern civilization has become increasingly dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas. The finite nature of these supplies implies that a transition to a sustainable energy future is inevitable.

Texas: At an Energy Crossroads

Texas is currently at an energy crossroads. For many years, excess energy production from Texas fueled a sizable portion of the national economy. During the past two decades, however, Texas' steadily increasing consumption has finally caught up with its waning energy production. Trends projected from this historical information, plotted in Figure 1, suggest that Texas will become more and more dependent on energy imported from out-of-state sources. Renewable energy sources, coupled with efficiency measures, represent a significant potential for meeting Texas' long-term energy demand and offer Texans the chance to maintain their energy independence. In March 1993, Governor Ann Richards created the Sustainable Energy Development Council (SEDC). The Governor specifically instructed the group "to develop a strategic plan to ensure the optimum utilization of Texas' renewable energy and energy efficiency resources."


Texas Energy History

FIGURE 1. Texas Energy Production and Consumption.
Texas Railroad Commission statistics for crude oil, natural gas,
natural gas liquids, lignite, coal, and uranium are summarized
in the green production line; consumption data are taken from
the U.S. Energy Information Administration's State Energy
Data Report 1992. Dashed segments represent projections.


Purpose of this Project

Before the realistic potential of renewables can be determined, it is essential to examine the natural renewable "fuel" resources of the state. Obvious questions come to mind, such as: How large are these resources?, Where are they located?, and How can they be used? To answer such questions, the SEDC contracted with Virtus Energy Research Associates (VERA) to evaluate Texas' renewable energy resource base. The assessment consists of three distinct components: survey, overview, and recommendations. It evaluates solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, water, and building climatology energy resources.

The study's survey component identifies and reviews information sources relevant to Texas renewables. These include details on fundamental data collection activities such as solar and wind monitoring networks, and a review of significant summary documents, studies, and maps. The overview characterizes each resource with special attention given to spatial variability and the identification of "good" resource areas of the state. Finally, recommendations are made to prioritize Texas' future resource assessment needs.

This project comprehensively reviews information covering the full range of renewable energy resources in Texas. No formal effort has been made to ascertain the economic potential of these renewable resources, since this is contingent upon the status of conversion technologies. Future activities of the SEDC will make such assessments. Dissemination of results is one of the main goals of the SEDC.