June 02, 2008
The state of wind power in Texas

For the most part, the wind power industry is doing well in Texas.

Wind power in Texas was mostly a curiosity in 2000 when the state first opened its wholesale electric markets to competition. About 300 turbines were spinning away in rural West Texas, creating a mere 200 megawatts of power.

Today the state has 5,300 megawatts on line, 25 times more than in 2000 and enough power to light more than 1.5 million homes.

Texas topped ecofriendly California as the largest wind producer in the U.S. in 2006 and is on track to pass some countries in installed wind generation in the coming years, including giants China and India. With another 44,000 megawatts in wind projects on the drawing board, the forecast is for continued growth for years.

But challenges, both economic and environmental, may be looming.

The capacity to move power from West Texas' growing fleet of wind turbines to the state's energy-hungry cities is tapped out, leaving many turbines idle.

Solving the problem will require spending billions of dollars to build hundreds of miles of new transmission lines, the costs of which will be shared by all Texas electric customers.

I blogged about that in April. This is a drum I plan to bang next year when the Legislature convenes; it's also something I hope our Congressional delegation is working on. If there was ever a good time to fully utilize our capacity for wind power, it's now.

There are other issues, of course, including the continuing fight over the Kenedy Ranch wind farm project. Overall, though, I feel pretty optimistic about the future of wind power in Texas. As it happens, there's a big conference on wind energy going on at the George R. Brown Convention Center this week, the Windpower 2008 conference - you can see its first newsletter for the event here. Among the speakers will be CD07 candidate Michael Skelly, who knows a thing or two about the business; he'll be joined by Gen. Wesley Clark at 11:30 AM on the second floor of the GRB to discuss energy and national security issues. That ought to be cool. Details are here (PDF); other conference and speaker information can be found here. Check it out if you can.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 02, 2008 to The great state of Texas

Wind power is a necessary source of clean energy, but the state doesn't have to be giving it such large tax breaks. In essence, wind farms pay no school property taxes, thanks to abatements granted by school districts under the HB 1200 program. Texas is perfect for wind energy: lots of wind, population centers nearby, a grid the cuts off out-of-state competition, and quick-on natural-gas-fired boilers to pick up the slack when the wind dies down. Wind farms would come here, even if they had to contribute to the support of our schools. They should pay their taxes.

Posted by: David Siegel on June 2, 2008 10:27 AM

Dunno where they were going, but I had trouble leaving work tonight because of 6 wide-load trucks with 12 windfarm propeller blades on them.

Posted by: Michael on June 2, 2008 10:29 PM
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