Austin's Clean Energy Future

In a presentation to City Council last Thursday, Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan laid out how the utility hopes to meet the city's future energy needs. AE's plan includes building a large-scale solar farm on city-owned land in Webberville and spending $2.3 billion to construct and source power from a wood-waste-fueled biomass plant in East Texas. Duncan also detailed AE's plan to cap carbon dioxide output at 2007 levels and reduce it to 2005 levels by 2014, partially through the use of purchased carbon offsets. The city will continue to employ aggressive energy-conservation tactics to offset power needs, Duncan explained, including enhancing city codes for zero-energy-capable buildings. AE won't add any new power from coal or nuclear sources but will expand its Sand Hill natural-gas plant near the airport, adding 300 megawatts by 2013. By 2020, AE will add nearly 600 MW from wind as well as 100 MW from solar sources like the Webberville site, a large-scale West Texas solar farm, and spaces in Austin deemed "solar-applicable" (think parking lots). The utility is also investigating coastal wind power and energy-storage technology. Austin Energy begins gathering public input this fall and will present a formal recommendation to council in 2009.

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