Yesterdays New York Times had an interesting article on the growth in wind power generation in Texas. Yes, that bastion of oil Texas is now the biggest generator of wind power in the United States.
Texas, once the oil capital of North America, is rapidly turning into the capital of wind power. After breakneck growth the last three years, Texas has reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines.
Why even renowned Texas oilman and corporate raider Boone Pickens sees the possibilities of wind power.
Texans are even turning tapped-out oil fields into wind farms, and no less an oilman than Boone Pickens is getting into alternative energy.
“I have the same feelings about wind,” Mr. Pickens said in an interview, “as I had about the best oil field I ever found.” He is planning to build the biggest wind farm in the world, a $10 billion behemoth that could power a small city by itself.
Texas does not seem to be generating the same type of opposition that other areas of the country (Cape Cod) have generated on aesthetic grounds.
But the opposition has been limited, and has done little to slow the rapid growth of wind power in Texas. Some Texans see the sleek new turbines as a welcome change in the landscape.
“Texas has been looking at oil and gas rigs for 100 years, and frankly, wind turbines look a little nicer,” said Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, whose responsibilities include leasing state lands for wind energy development. “We’re No. 1 in wind in the United States, and that will never change.”
Texas surpassed California as the top wind farm state in 2006. In January alone, new wind farms representing $700 million of investment went into operation in Texas, supplying power sufficient for 100,000 homes.
With some of the countries best wind areas some distance from our heaviest electrical use the issue of power transmission needs to be addressed.
A longer-term problem is potential bottlenecks in getting wind power from the places best equipped to produce it to the populous areas that need electricity. The part of the United States with the highest wind potential is a corridor stretching north from Texas through the middle of the country, including sparsely populated states like Montana and the Dakotas. Power is needed most in the dense cities of the coasts, but building new transmission lines over such long distances is certain to be expensive and controversial.
“We need a national vision for transmission like we have with the national highway system,” said Robert Gramlich, policy director for the American Wind Energy Association. “We have to get over the hump of having a patchwork of electric utility fiefdoms.”
Wind power will be an integral part of the energy future of the United States. We are going to have Wendy Williams, author of “Cape Wind” at the Great Hall, Searles Building, on March 4th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss her book. Hope to see you there.