Wind Power: the Sound of Money
For Release April 8, 1999
Next time you hear the wind whoosh across the plains or listen to it spin up a dust storm, just be comforted by the fact that these days, that's the sound of money for West Texas. How much money? $1.7 billion dollars and three to four thousand jobs if Texas sets a goal to get 3% of its energy from renewables.
We all know that there's a lot of wind in West Texas. What's new is that the technology which captures the wind's energy and converts it to electricity has come of age and is already creating revenue in some counties. What's even better is wind is an industry that will provide family raising jobs, including manufacturing jobs, and support for schools counties and hospitals for decades to come.
Wind generated electricity promises to fill in the gaps and strengthen economies that are being hit by the oil and gas glut. This year, wind energy came of age when sales of wind-generated electricity in Culberson County, which is between Midland and El Paso, exceeded the value of oil and gas sales from that county.
In Big Spring, just outside Midland/Odessa, the $50 million development under construction will supply the local school district with $700,000 a year when complete - enough to put life back into two school districts that were nearly bankrupted by the oil glut.
So what does a wind powered future hold for West Texas? A study commissioned by the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition examined this question. The study found that by setting a target to get 3% of Texas' electric capacity from renewables like wind power by 2007 would earn more than $50 million for local school districts over the next eight years and $20 million annually after that. When you factor in the construction and permanent jobs, the construction costs and purchases needed to make the projects happen, the numbers add up to $1.7 billion quickly.
A second study, commissioned by the Texas Department of Economic Development, found that roughly 3,400 jobs would be created in the renewable energy sector if the state were to get 3% of its electricity from renewables by 2010.
The Texas Senate set a 3% goal as part of a package to restructure the Texas electric utility industry. A Texas House committee, on which Lubbock Representative Delwin Jones sits, is deliberating on a similar proposal this week and is expected to vote next Monday April 19. Both houses need to pass the legislation for it to become law.
One of the special benefits of wind energy is that it is labor intensive work. Nearly all the costs of the energy source are wrapped up in the manufacturing of the towers, the blades, the generators, pumps gears and controllers that make a wind turbine. When developers have a long term target to aim for, it makes it easier to justify building manufacturing plants in Texas to support the work.
Other job opportunities will be created. Just like secondary businesses developed to support oil and gas, businesses will thrive on the economic activity generated by wind plants.
The opportunities extend beyond the borders of West Texas, however.
Wind powered electricity is the world's fastest growing energy source and has been for the past three years. All over the world, communities seeking more reliable long term pricing or less pollution are installing wind turbines.
Just as for the last 100 years Texas has led the world in oil and gas technologies, Texas can lead the world in renewable and wind energies for the next hundred. Texas has the best wind energy resource in the world, the intellectual capital and a transportation and manufacturing infrastructure which means West Texas could dominate in the technologies, design and production of wind powered devices.
Renewable energy is a smart investment for Texas. The investment needed for wind energy development is modest. A 1998 study by the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a Washington based research group, found that the cost of large-scale wind development, or 3,070 megawatts, would be about 75 cents per month per family.
Furthermore, ten utility company polls over the last two years customers have said that renewable energy is their first choice for meeting our future needs for electric power. Over 80% have said they are willing to pay a $1 per month to develop this new energy resource and think that all Texans should pay a little to make sure wind and renewables are used.
West Texas has a new energy source: wind power.
Wind Energy Will Benefit West Texas
The direct economic benefits to Texas that would occur between now and 2007 as a result of this wind power development include the following:
- More than $1.7 billion of investment in new projects
- More than $50 million in school tax levies, based on those projected investments
- More than $40 million in potential local, non-school, property tax levies
- More than $340 million in local purchases for construction of wind projects
- More than $560 million in possible additional purchases of major wind turbine components, of the types already being manufactured in Texas
- Royalty payments to landowners of almost $17 million, which will continue at a rate of almost $8 million per year
According to some estimates, Texas could develop enough electricity from renewable resources to meet the needs of every home in the U.S.
- Under this scenario, which could take 50 years or longer to achieve, statewide production of wind power would be valued at $11.5 billion per year.
- El Paso and other west Texas cities could build up industries around wind and solar power like many Texas cities did around the oil business. With policies designed to encourage industry, El Paso could support research, manufacturing, installation and production industries based on renewable energy.
- There is a big market in the world for renewable technologies. Wind energy has been the fastest growing energy source in the world for the last three years. Worldwide, there are two billion people without electricity - many of them in rural or hard to reach areas, where it is not cost effective to build power plants or string power lines, but local wind or solar projects would meet their needs.
- Wind farms are ideally suited for job creation in rural areas. Unlike fossil-fuel power plants, wind power plants can be arranged in small clusters in many different places, matching the dispersed
For More Information:
The SEED Coalition
611 South Congress, Suite 200
Austin TX 78746
512-479-7744 (phone) 512-479-7645 fax
FOR RELEASE: April 8, 1999