Texas shows the way for wind power

SWEETWATER, TEXAS - Texas remains the runaway leader in wind power generation capacity, with more than the next three states combined, according to a report released by the American Wind Energy Association.

Wind generation capacity in the U.S. grew by 15 percent in 2010, according to the wind association's U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report. Wind power accounted for 26 percent of all electricity generating capacity added last year.

The Lone Star State has 10,085 megawatts of wind capacity it is followed by Iowa, 3,675 California, 3,177 and Minnesota, 2,192. Texas added 680 megawatts of wind capacity last year, the association said.

But you haven't seen anything yet, said Greg Wortham, executive director of the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse and mayor of Sweetwater, a West Texas town of 12,000 that has become a hub for the state's wind generation.

About a quarter of the nation's wind generation capacity "is within an hour's drive" of Sweetwater, Wortham said.

West Texas is primed for continued growth in wind power, as the state has embarked on a $5 billion project to build large transmission lines linking wind farms with population centers such as Dallas-Fort Worth. The project is well under way and aims to be done by the end of 2013.

New transmission towers and new cable are going up, with "wind projects following behind that," Wortham said.

Growing numbers of West Texans are employed in various facets of wind power, and "it's just becoming an entrenched industry" in the region, he said.

With the added transmission lines under construction, the next three years should be "really good" for the state's wind industry, which could provide 15 percent of Texas' electricity by 2015, Wortham forecasts.

That would be nearly double the 7.8 percent that wind provided last year on the state's largest power grid, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT spokeswoman Dottie Roark said.

Coal fueled 39.5 percent of ERCOT's electricity generation, with natural gas a close second at 38.2 percent. Nuclear accounted for 13.1 percent and other sources, including hydroelectric, provided 1.4 percent.


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