If you think Texas wind power is a big deal, you ain’t see nothing yet. The state is just weeks away from pushing the start button on 3,600 miles of new transmission lines that will bring 18,500 megawatts of wind power from sparsely populated West Texas to urban centers including Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin. Called CREZ for Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, the new lines will make Texas the runaway leader in wind transmission.
Ironically, some of that energy will also go to speed the development of fossil fuel production in parts of Texas, particularly from shale formations. But now that we got the buzz kill out of the way, let’s take a look at how CREZ is already spurring new investment in Texas wind farms.
The Panhandle Wind Farm and CREZ
In an epic piece of timing, the $7 billion CREZ project will come on line just as energy companies are racing to start construction on new wind farms before the federal production tax credit for wind power expires.
As reported by our friends over at Fuel Fix, one of the first companies to take advantage of both the CREZ project and the tax credit is Pattern Energy Group, which just broke ground on its new 218 megawatt Panhandle Wind Farm in Carson County.
Going into the ground will be 1.85-MW turbines by GE, putting about 200 people to work during the construction phase. Once the wind farm is completed, it will generate enough energy for about 60,000 homes and keep about a dozen people at work in permanent positions.
Where to put all that wind energy?
Before the usual suspects get started on the old “wind power is unreliable” thing, let’s note for the record that this is Texas. Not only is it the site of the nation’s biggest wind energy transmission project, it is also the site of the biggest wind energy storage project in the US. The 36 megawatt facility, owned by Duke Energy, is hooked up to the company’s Notrees Wind Farm (and yes, the project received Recovery Act Funding, so we built that!).
Between its wind resources, transmission lines and energy storage potential, Texas is happily sitting atop a wind power trifecta, at least until the aforementioned federal tax credit for wind power expires, which it will do at the end of this year unless Congress decides to extend it.
Speaking of that, now that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has demonstrated a unique ability to grab the spotlight and hold it, we’re interested to learn more about his position on federal support for wind power projects in his home state. Nothing much turned up on line, so if anybody out there has some information drop us a note in the comment thread.