Jan Peelen 

Jan Peelen is Attaché for Infrastructure & Environment at the Royal Netherlands Embassy (Washington, D.C), where he is responsible for infrastructure, smart cities, climate resilience and sustainable economic growth.

Jan has been in the U.S. since 2014 and had developed a special interest in Texas over the years. ‘ A lot of people only think of  oil & gas, when they talk about Texas, but there is much more interesting stuff going on: they are really making progress on sustainable energy and the city of Austin is considered one of the leading ‘smart cities’ in the US’, says Jan. The rapid growth of Texan cities and projects like the Ike-dike or the Central Texas Railway are also being followed with great interest.

Before his posting in the US, Jan worked as the program officer for the Dutch International Water Policy Program: he coordinated the overall program and was responsible for various initiatives to promote the Dutch water & maritime industry.

Jan started his career with the Dutch national government as a specialist on environmental impact assessments. He later became a strategic advisor and project manager for various national energy & transportation infrastructure projects in The Netherlands and was involved in the development of new policies and regulations for these type of projects.

Jan holds an M.S. in Urban & Regional Planning from the University of Amsterdam and serves on the Advisory Board of the ‘Emerging Leaders in Environmental & Energy Policy’ (ELEEP) network.

 

Posted by Mariella Priem April 07, 2017

Fort Hood 

Fort Hood

Fort Hood is a U.S. army base, located in Killeen, Texas. The post is named after Confederate General John Bell Hood. It is located halfway between Austin and Waco, about 60 miles (100 km) from each, within the U.S. state of Texas. Fort Hood is an installation of the United States Army and is the largest military base in the world (by area). Its origin was the need for wide-open space to test and train with World War II tank destroyers. Fort Hood is the most populous U.S. military installation in the world. The main business area is in Bell County, with the training countryside area of the post in Coryell County. In April 2014, the Fort Hood website lists 45,414 assigned soldiers and 8,900 civilian employees with Fort Hood covering 214,000 acres (87,000 ha). Currently, Fort Hood has nearly 65,000 soldiers and family members and serves as a home for the following units: Headquarters III Corps; First Army Division West; the 1st Cavalry Division; 13th Sustainment Command (formerly 13th Corps Support Command); 89th Military Police Brigade; 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade; 85th Civil Affairs Brigade; 1st Medical Brigade; and the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Lt. Col. Peter Grijspaardt, is also based in Fort Hood as commander of the 302nd SQN, more precisely on the Robert Gray Army Airfield. The 302nd SQN consists of 230 employees, 27 of them are Dutch, stationed in Fort Hood for three years. The Dutch SQN is part of the 120st US brigade. The Dutch soldiers are stationed in Fort Hood for real-life training purposes. The Dutch have been present in Fort Hood for more than 20 years now. It all started with Apache training and exams in Fort Hood with the 301st SQN. The facilities were very well appreciated and convenient for training purposes, so the Dutch detachment made their military sales case towards the US government to continue and expand their presence in Fort Hood. Nowadays the 302st SQN organizes trainings four times per year for military aviators (apache, chinook, Amercian Falcon) from the Netherlands. Next to these trainings there is a mission training of 2 times 9 weeks for Dutch soldies as well to practice their own drills and shooting practices.

We asked Lt. Col. Peter Grijspaardt why they choose Fort Hood as their base. The main reason is the vastness and space of the training areas. The training areas are almost the size of the Netherlands in total. The Netherlands as a small, densely populated area with a lot of rules, regulations and restrictions is not a good place to do the training. Because of the space, there are endless opportunities for the aviation training, there are low and high fly zones and land to practice shooting. Fort Hood made deals with the ranchers to use their land for training. Also, the positivism of the Texans and the appreciation for the military are reason for the Dutch detachment to renew the contracts with the US government to be located in Fort Hood for five more years. The Dutch military are based on more locations in the U.S. than just Fort Hood. There is a Dutch military presence in El Paso, TX, Tucson, AZ, Fort Rucker in Alabama and in California. There are advantages of training with the U.S. forces. The U.S. military has developed a lot of expertise on airstrikes. Collaborating and exchanging tactics is very fruitful. The Dutch have conducted operations with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past and now are conducting operations in Iraq and Syria together. Working with U.S. troops in garrison helps the Dutch familiarize with the different regional accents that American Soldiers have, which is important when they are conducting joint missions in theater. Training at Fort Hood fosters the relationship between Dutch and U.S. troops and builds trust that carries into missions down range and has already been proven to help with interoperability.

In February 2017, The Hon. Henne Schuwer, Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S., visited Fort Hood and met with Dutch troops and leaders, and observed training conducted by the Royal Netherlands Army and Air Force.

Posted by Mariella Priem April 07, 2017

Renewable energy in Texas: Solar 

 

Solar energy may not be as prominent as wind energy in Texas, having an installed capacity of 589 MW which puts Texas on tenth rank nationally. This can power 63000 homes. Nevertheless, growth of solar capacity was 65% in 2015 with a 48% increase of investment over that year. Installed solar PV system prices dropped 12% from 2015 and 66% from 2010. In its Long Term System Assessment Update for 2016, ERCOT expects solar energy to grow from approximately 2% in 2017 to 17% in 2031. (ERCOT is the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas responsible for generation, transmission and frequency regulation in the electricity market of Texas).

Although Texas clearly does not lack the geographical and natural factors which contribute to potential for solar energy, it is not performing as well as California, North Carolina, Arizona or New Jersey concerning installed solar capacity. However, it is an upcoming state in growing solar capacity.  Currently ranking eighth on cumulated installed solar capacity nationally, Texas moved to the third rank for the third quarter of 2016. Texas is thus just in the beginning phase of adapting solar, but the market is taking up the potential quickly, even though policies to promote it are less ‘aggressive’.

Basically, there are two main ways to gain energy from solar radiation. The first one is the direct conversion of solar radiation into energy by photovoltaics (PV) , which therefore only operate when the sun is shining. The other one, solar thermal energy uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight. The thereby obtained thermal energy generates steam to operate a conventional turbine that produces electricity. The latter method is implemented on the large scale in remote areas. Most large-scale solar utilities can be found in West Texas, which has 75% more radiation than in East Texas. This is confirmed by the adjacent figure. In West Texas this radiation is strongest with 6 to 6.8 kW per square meter per day. Moreover, the abundance of cheap private land sets good conditions for developing large scaled solar thermal projects. In general, Texas had 20% of U.S.’s annual technical potential for concentrating solar power in 2012. Further, the U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potential report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states that Texas holds the largest national potential in urban and rural utility scale PV.

 

Texas’ largest solar farm is owned by CPS Energy in San Antonio. With its 95MW, the Alamo Solar Farm is part of a 400MW project. Contracts between international companies and CPS Energy are part of their New Energy Economy initiative, started in 2011 in which they agree to buy the renewable energy products of the company in order for them to settle in San Antonio and add to the economic development of the area. Apart from San Antonio, Austin Energy has attractive capital incentives for commercial and residential solar investors. Their “Value of Solar” program allows customers to sell generated energy back to the grid and therefore promotes Distributed Energy Resources and energy efficiency. Austin Energy is also open for partnerships on an international level to promote sustainability.

Furthermore, Oncor, a T&D service provider in Dallas used a portion of its investments in energy efficiency for solar incentives when they were bought out by another company in 2008. When the investor’s money was spent up they found it still to be a cost-efficient measure and kept on to these incentives in their standard offer program.

MP2 Energy, Austin Energy, El Paso Electric CPS Energy and Pedernales Electric Cooperative are examples of utilities applying community solar, an alternative to share the output produced by a solar farm with a community, consisting of residents who might not be able to apply solar on their roof.

The attractiveness of solar energy both on residential-, commercial-, and utility scale can be contributed to the dramatic cost incline of solar panels, something the Chinese solar market influences greatly. Just between the two halves of the year 2016, there has been a decline in costs per Watt direct current of residential solar by 8.6%. For commercial solar, this cost decline is 12.5%. Utility fix-tilt and utility single-axis trackers equipment experienced a cost reduction of 17.4% and 15.1% respectively.

With these cost reductions, subsidies like the Investment Tax Credit, a 100% solar property tax exemption and the extensive geographical and geological potential, a sharp uptake of solar energy for distributors, product manufacturers, designers and developers in Texas has only just begun.

Posted by Mariella Priem April 07, 2017