Texas is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources. In fact, Texas' solar, wind, and biomass potential rank among the very best in the nation. As summarized in Figure 18 below, many areas of the state have sufficient Rcommercial qualityS resources to support large investments such as electric power production, cogeneration, and alcohol manufacturing, as well as multitudes of distributed, small-scale projects. Texas' excellent endowment suggests that renewable energy offers exceptional potential to help meet the state's future energy needs.
Development of the state's renewable energy resources could provide meaningful employment opportunies and stimulate local economies. The Northwest Plains, with sizable wind, solar, and biomass potential, is well positioned to reap rural economic benefits associated with the growth of renewables. In the urban areas of East and Central Texas, distributed renewable energy systems can satisfy a large portion of local energy needs. In addition, many renewable energy sytems mesh synergistically with efforts to control various wastes. Examples include distributed electric generation facilities fueled by landfill gas and other urban wastes, and solar ponds constructed in conjunction with facilities that prevent saline water from contaminating fresh water supplies.
This project has gathered information from a wide variety of sources. In total, these sources determine that Texas has plentiful renewable resources. But in order to optimally utilize the renewable energy resource base of the state, additional information will be required. The recommendations which follow are designed to provide a better understanding of resources that have the potential to make significant near-term contributions towards the state's energy needs.
Future investments in renewable energy resource assessment should be focused in areas where they are expected to have the greatest near-term impact, and secondly when and where opportunities present themselves to participate in other ongoing resource assessment activities.
1) Building Climatology: Characterize the state's building stock and examine the potential impact of passive strategies. Building structures that are more in tune with their environmental surroundings makes sense economically. However, passive strategies do not operate independent of one another; additional validation of optimal strategies for structures built in Texas climates is warranted.
2) Wind: Establish more wind monitoring stations throughout the state. Secondly, evaluate wind data that are already available. The recent interest in wind energy development in the state has motivated the need for additional resource information, particularly in windy areas. The numerous existing wind data that have not yet been considered should be evaluated.
3) Solar: Establish more solar monitoring stations throughout the state, particularly in the Trans-Pecos and along the Rio Grande. The best solar resource areas of Texas have almost no measured solar data available. Major solar development will require substantially improved resource information to reasonably locate facilities.
4) Biomass: Fully participate in federally sponsored programs. Although active in certain areas such as switchgrass field trials, Texas researchers have been absent from other assessment opportunities relevant to the state's biomass resource.
In addition to the recommendations above, organizations that are considering investments in assessment of renewable energy resources should be attentive to special opportunities for co-funding projects with entities with related interests. For instance, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is leading an effort to establish a Texas mesoscale weather observing network (MESONET). Such a network would prove extremely valuable to the Texas renewable energy community. Secondly, if water agencies contemplate the construction of new chloride control lakes, it may be prudent to investigate the feasibility of utilizing the project as a solar pond.