Wind Energy, Production Gives Texas Economy Big Boost
One of the hottest commodities in Texas is earning the state international recognition, creating thousands of jobs and reinventing land use.
And it’s invisible.
Wing Energy in Texas
In the place that gave Texas Tea its name, wind is the new face of energy, with the state leading the country in wind production for the last four years.
In fact, if Texas were a nation, its installed wind power capacity of more than 9,400 megawatts would rank it sixth in the world.
“Texas has a very good wind resource, strong customer demand for renewable energy, good transmission policy and ease of siting,” says Jan Johnson, spokeswoman for wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables, which is building a 404-megawatt installation in South Texas. “So basically, just a whole lot of factors make Texas a good place to build wind power.”
The wind industry is a promising source of job creation for Texas, where 25 percent of the nation’s wind power is generated. Currently, wind power employs some 50,000 people nationwide, but a report by the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that number will grow to 300,000 by 2030.
“Manufacturers should be attracted to Texas, given the pretty rapid growth of the wind industry in this area,” says Rick Walker, an instructor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and president of Sustainable Energy Strategies.
Roscoe Wind Complex
The state, which is home to more than 2,000 wind turbines in West Texas alone, boasts many of the world’s largest installations, including the granddaddy of all wind farms near Roscoe. Nearly 630 towering turbines spanning 100,000 acres across four counties generate 781 megawatts of electricity at the Roscoe Wind Complex. The wind farm, built by E.ON Climate and Renewables North America, is the world’s largest, with the potential to power 230,000 households at full capacity.
When the Roscoe complex began churning out electricity in October 2009, it barely snatched the claim to “world’s largest” from Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, a 735-megawatt installation completed in September 2006 southwest of Abilene.
“We invested in Texas because the state is very pro-wind and pro-business, has excellent wind resources in West Texas and had growing energy demand,” says Steven Stengel, spokesman for project developer NextEra Energy Resources.
Other Wind Developments, Additions
Peñascal I, Iberdrola Renewable’s first 202-megawatt wind farm in the Kenedy County community of Sarita, came online in April 2009.
The project, and the community, caught a tail wind in fall 2009 when the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Iberdrola Renewables $114 million in stimulus money to complete Peñascal II.
Also in development is a collaborative project of the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, Cielo Wind Power and China’s Shenyang Power Group to build a 600-megawatt wind farm on 36,000 acres in West Texas.
In response to the activity, the Texas Legislature has worked aggressively to increase transmission capabilities, which are close to capacity in many cases.
At the behest of the legislature, the Texas Public Utility Commission has adopted a plan to deliver renewable energy to consumers from Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, or CREZs, including 2,400 miles of new 345-kilovolt transmission lines.
“A lot of times it’s difficult to get power from the big windy place where the wind blows to the cities where the homes and businesses use the electricity,” says Johnson of Iberdrola Renewables. “And Texas is ahead of other parts of the country.”