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Texas Grows Wind-Energy Capacity, Maintains U.S. Lead

posted on January 18, 2008


Texas grows wind-energy capacity, maintains U.S. lead

By JOHN PORRETTO

AP Business Writer

HOUSTON — Texas expanded its wind-energy capacity by 57 percent in 2007, solidifying the state's position as the nation's leader in wind-generated power, a trade group said Thursday.

Nationally, more than $9 billion in investments helped U.S. capacity grow by 45 percent last year, and 2008 is poised to match those levels, the American Wind Energy Association said.

Texas' installed capacity jumped to 4,356 megawatts at the end of 2007 from 2,768 megawatts a year ago, the association said. That placed it far ahead of the next four states: California (2,439 installed megawatts), Minnesota (1,299), Iowa (1,273) and Washington (1,163.)

What's more, Texas has 1,238.28 megawatts under construction, far ahead of any other state.

"Texas understands the energy business, so it's no great shock we're out ahead of the pack when it comes to wind energy," said Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and a wind-energy proponent. "Texas is used to leading the nation when it comes to energy."

But Texas also is the top U.S. source of greenhouse gases in the nation.

Texas spewed 670 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2003, enough to rank seventh in the world if it were its own country, according to the most-recent figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The amount is more than California and Pennsylvania — the second- and third-ranking states — combined.

U.S. wind farms will generate just over 1 percent of the nation's electricity supply this year, and the estimated 48 billion kilowatt-hours of wind energy is enough to power the equivalent of more than 4.5 million homes, according to the trade group.

But without the prompt extension of a tax credit set to expire at year's end, the association would not provide an equally rosy outlook for 2009.

Tax breaks for various clean-energy industries, including wind, along with language requiring investor-owned utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, were left out of the energy bill President Bush signed last month.

"The U.S. wind industry calls on Congress and the president to quickly extend the (federal production tax credit) — the only existing U.S. incentive for wind power — in order to sustain this remarkable growth along with the manufacturing jobs, fresh economic opportunities and reduction of global warming pollution that it provides," Randall Swisher, the wind association's executive director, said in a statement.

Wind power is attractive to utilities because of its low cost compared with other renewable sources, especially solar power, but the ability to generate electricity from wind is limited. A study done last year for Congress by the National Research Council said wind farms could generate up to 7 percent of the nation's electricity in 15 years.

Some wind projects, however, have spurred controversy over their potential environmental effects.

The dispute over construction of two wind farms adjacent to the famed King Ranch in South Texas entered the courts last month when an alliance of conservation and related groups filed lawsuits to stop the projects.

The Coastal Habitat Alliance filed separate lawsuits in state and federal court. The federal lawsuit claims the state has not done a thorough analysis of the impact the farms and their massive turbines will have on wetlands, habitat, endangered species and migratory birds. It seeks a declaratory judgment and, if needed, an injunction against the developers, whose combined initial investments are expected to top $1 billion.

AP Business Writer Dan Caterinicchia in Washington contributed to this report.

January 17, 2008 - 2:05 p.m. CST

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