Wind energy facility coming to Houston

The Chron has an announcement from the WindPower 08 conference that’s good news for Houston:

Dutch powerhouse Vestas Wind Systems said it will open its first U.S. research and development facility here. The office will open in 2009 and grow to about 100 researchers by early 2010, not including support staff, with more positions likely to come.

“Large-scale renewable energy has to be done in conjunction with major energy companies,” said Ditlev Engel, Vestas chief executive. “There’s no either-or with renewable and traditional fossil fuels. You need them all.”

The announcement came during the American Wind Energy Association’s annual Wind Power conference, which is in Houston for the first time this year and runs through Wednesday. More than 12,000 attendees have registered for the conference at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The conference features panel discussions, hundreds of exhibitors and a job fair.

Texas leads the nation in wind power, with 5,300 megawatts on line, enough to power more than 1.5 million homes, according to the Department of Energy.

In addition to BP and Shell’s wind operations, Houston is home to Horizon Wind Energy, a wind developer that was acquired by Portuguese energy giant Energias de Portugal, as well as the wind development offices for international investment firm Babcock & Brown.

Munich, Germany-based Siemens, the third-largest wind turbine manufacturer, has maintenance staff and a training facility in Houston.

And the University of Houston is part of a consortium that will operate a wind blade test facility planned near Corpus Christi.

Houston Mayor Bill White noted Monday the city is already one of the largest public purchasers of wind power.

“Our goal is that Houston will not just be the energy capital of the world, but for renewables and energy efficiency,” White said.

KHOU and Miya have more. I actually got a press release from the Land Commissioner’s office about this last week, but it got lost in the to-be-blogged-about pile. I’ve reprinted that release beneath the fold, along with a release from Michael Skelly about his press conference with Gen. Wesley Clark; there’s also a short story in the Chron about this. And finally, the newsletter from Day 2 of the conference is here. More to come as we go.

From the General Land Office:

Sunday marks the beginning of North America’s largest wind energy conference, Windpower 2008 in Houston, where officials are expected to announce a historic new federal wind blade test facility will be built on the Texas coast. Governor Perry is scheduled to provide the conference keynote address.

“The Texas wind energy industry will reach critical mass with this announcement,” said Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and leading proponent of wind energy. “Not only will Texas lead the nation in installed windpower capacity, we will be poised to be the one-stop shop for research, manufacturing and production of wind turbines.”

To be built through an innovative public-private partnership led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the facility will test ind turbine blades for use in commercial wind farms around the world. The testing lab will be built in Ingleside near Corpus Christi on land donated by BP.

“Once we build this test facility in Texas, the wind turbine and blade manufacturers will come,” Patterson said. “Just like when the federal government put the space center in Houston, this test facility will launch new wind blade research and manufacturing jobs in Texas. This facility will establish Texas as a worldwide leader in wind power for decades to come.”

Patterson also noted a Texas-based test facility will give the U.S. an advantage in getting a bigger share of the projected $80 billion annual international business in designing and building turbines.

Under Patterson’s leadership, Texas signed the nation’s first six leases for the development of offshore wind power. Texas is primed for wind industry development, Patterson said.

“Texas has deep industrial know-how based on our history of oil and gas development. Texas has strong gulf winds, the political will and the infrastructure, like transportation and deep-water ports, to make our state the perfect site for this fast-growing industry,” Patterson said.

And no coastal state has greater wind energy potential than Texas. Texas could generate as much as 10 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, according to resource assessments conducted by the University of Houston. The nation’s cumulative wind power capacity is currently 9,971 megawatts, approximately half of which is installed in Texas. The booming growth of the wind industry in Texas makes the state a natural fit for the testing of the huge turbine components required for future wind farms.

From Michael Skelly:

Houston businessman and Congressional candidate Michael Skelly was joined by General Wesley Clark and a number of U.S. Military Veterans at the WindPower 2008 Conference on Monday to discuss the role of renewable energy in U.S. national security. Skelly, an energy entrepreneur, emphasized the need to focus on domestically produced renewable energy as a means to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“As long as the U.S. relies on massive energy imports, we are, in a very real way, at the mercy of a small number of oil-exporting countries,” Skelly said. “These countries use our dependence as a weapon.”

General Clark reiterated the need for energy independence, citing a number of foreign policy issues that are impacted by dependence on foreign oil.

“We are more dependent on fossil fuels than ever,” General Clark said. “But we have the technology to start making changes. The wind energy sector that Michael has been so pivotal in advancing is a perfect place to start. That’s why we need people like Michael leading the charge in Congress.”

Skelly argued that if we increase investment in homegrown energy sources, such as increased domestic production of oil and gas, and solar and wind, we will decrease the leverage that oil-exporting countries have over us and become significantly stronger as a nation.

General Wesley K. Clark is a former presidential candidate and was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1997 to 2000. He graduated first in his class from West Point and received a Rhodes Scholarship. General Clark has been a leading advocate for responsible troop deployment and sensible long-term military planning.

Michael Skelly is running for Congress in the 7th Congressional District of Texas. Skelly came to the U.S. from Ireland with his family when he was two years old aboard the S.S. America, arriving on American shores with only $200 to their name. He went on to graduate from the University of Notre Dame and Harvard Business School, and to become a leading innovator in his field. He built his energy company, Horizon Wind Energy, from the ground up. Nine years later, it is a multi-billion dollar operation, the third largest wind energy company in the country. By the end of the year, the Houston-based business will provide electricity to nearly one million American homes.

Michael serves on Mayor White’s Green Building Advisory Committee and is a longtime member of the board of the American Wind Energy Association. He lives with his wife Anne and three children in West University Place.

The WindPower 2008 Conference was chaired by Skelly and sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association.

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