Of all the states, the greatest leader is Texas, with 4.296 GW in capacity --
and it's just warming up. Texas is not a state many associate with
alternative energy. It leads the country in fossil fuel production, both
for oil and natural gas, containing approximately one fourth of known oil
reserves in the U.S. Typically, alternative energy conjures up images of
California or Washington; both which do have strong wind programs.
However, these "green" states fall short of dusty Texas in green
energy, thanks to the state’s leading commitment to wind power. And Texas needs
it -- Texans consume the most energy in the country, both per capita and as a
Texas plans to aggressively
expand its wind capacity. Among its efforts, it just committed to the
largest wind power
infrastructure expansion yet, spending billions on power transmission lines
to pump power from the park, located in remote but windy west Texas, to urban
areas in eastern Texas. The project will solidify Texas' leadership
position in the world of alternative energy, according to Texas officials.
The state's Public Utility Commission Commissioner Paul Hudson, who approved
the move, states, "We will add more wind than the 14 states following
Texas combined. I think that's a very extraordinary achievement. Some
think we haven't gone far enough, some think we've pushed too far."
Patrick Woodson, vice president of E.On Climate & Renewables North America
is among the wind entrepreneurs benefiting from Texans' thirst for wind
energy. His company has 1,200 MW of capacity in operations or
planned. He states, "People think about oil wells and football in
Texas, but in 10 years they'll look back and say this was a brilliant thing to
Wind power has received a mixed response among the environmental community and
from landowners. Some believe the energy source to be an essential step to
generating clean energy and moving away from fossil fuel reliance, but others
argue that the designs are inefficient, that they interfere with migrating
birds, and that they bring down property values by marring the view.
Landowners have protested expansion at Cape Cod in Massachusetts to Idaho and
Texas' South Padre Island.
However, the new project is less controversial as it builds no new turbines in
desolate west Texas. Rather it merely seeks to add power lines to better
utilize the capacity, sending it to thirsty Texas cities. From five
scenarios ranging from $3B USD to $6.4B USD, the PUC decided on a middle-of-the
road scenario of around $4 to 5B USD. The PUC describes the timeframe
stating, "It is expected that the new lines will be in service within four
to five years."
Supporters laud the move saying it will encourage wind energy projects, grow
jobs, reduce energy costs and reduce pollution. They're terming the
project a "wind energy superhighway".
Citizens will be feeling a bit of financial impact from the project, paying
about $4 more, on average, a month on their electrical bills, or about $50 a
year. Tom Smith, director of the Texas office of the consumer advocacy
group Public Citizen says $50 a year is a small
price to pay for energy independence.
He argues, "We have all these wind plants up and operating. What we're
asking for is the superhighway to get the energy to the cities. This will
send signals to manufacturers all across the world Texas is ready to be a
world-class player in renewable energy."
Rate increases are expected to be a couple years away. The increases are
no different in structure to those used to pay for power line expansion from
traditional fossil-fuel burning plants. Wind does have the advantage of a
2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour tax credit from the national government, which is due
to expire in December. Congress is currently mulling over a permanent
extension. Tax credit or not, though Texas has made it clear that it
seeks to be the dominate leader in the wind power industry.