Big Money in Texas Wind Power Boom

Wind turbine photo by Brian Harkin

Wind power in Texas keeps impressing us. A little less than two years ago, the Lone Star state passed California to become the biggest wind power producer in the USA. Since then, it hasn't been resting on its laurels: Installed wind generation capacity has grown faster than any other state. And that's impressive considering that the average growth for the whole country has been 45% in 2007.

Are texans more attracted to the aesthetics of wind turbines than others? Maybe, or maybe turbines just look nicer than oil rigs. The fact that wind is now good business certainly also has something to do with it. For example, Louis Brooks has allowed 78 turbines to be built on his ranch, with 76 more coming. He gets $500/month per turbine. Even uber-oilman Boone Pickens is getting into wind power in a big way.

Louis Brooks, photo by Brian Harkin

"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 [4,000 megawatt], a $10 billion behemoth that could power a small city by itself. [...]

"I like wind because it's renewable and it's clean and you know you are not going to be dealing with a production decline curve," Mr. Pickens said. "Decline curves finally wore me out in the oil business."

Currently, wind power supplies only 1% of electricity in the US. That's the equivalent of 4.5 million homes. Denmark is around 20%, but some energy consultants predict that 5 to 7% is a more realistic goal for the US. Are they right? The future will tell, but one certainty is that at current growth rates, wind power's share won't take too long to climb. Meanwhile, solar, wave and geothermal are becoming more affordable...

The United States recently overtook Spain as the world's second-largest wind power market, after Germany, with $9 billion invested last year. A recent study by Emerging Energy Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., projected $65 billion in investment from 2007 to 2015.

::Move Over, Oil, There's Money in Texas Wind

See also: ::Enercon E-126: The World's Largest Wind Turbine (for now), ::Texas Passes California as US's Largest Wind Power Producer, ::T. Boone Pickens Gets Into The Texas Wind: 4,000 Mega-Watts Worth, ::Texas Hosting Bids For Offshore Wind Farm Leases
Photos: Brian Harkin for The New York Times

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