COMMITTEE LOOKS AT FUTURE OF WIND POWER IN TEXAS
(AUSTIN) — Texas will continue to lead the nation in wind-generated electricity, according to testimony offered at Monday's Senate Business and Commerce meeting. Committee chairman Senator Troy Fraser began the meeting with a brief history of wind power in Texas. Beginning in 1999, the Legislature mandated a goal of 2500 megawatts of wind generated energy by 2010. By 2005, that goal had been met, so lawmakers set a new benchmark of 5880 megawatts by 2015. As of this year, Texas has capacity to generate 6000 megawatts of wind energy, and should have a 10000 megawatt capacity by 2010. Testimony Monday related to where new wind turbines will be built.
One burgeoning market for new wind generation lies off the Texas shore, according to Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Unlike inland wind generation, which is generated mostly at night during off-peak demand hours, costal wind farms generate power during the day. While off-shore construction has been impeded due to yearly hurricanes, Patterson estimates Texas should begin generating wind power from costal farms in as soon as two years.
While off-shore wind generation shows potential, there is still a growing inland wind market. The committee heard testimony from representatives of power companies, and local residents in an effort to balance the needs of both groups. Gillespie County Judge Mark Stroeher testified that residents in his region are very concerned about new wind farms spoiling the scenic views in the Texas Hill Country. He wants some form of regulation to give local residents a say in where new wind farms are built.
Burt Gannin, a representative of Florida Power and Light, testified that letting the industry regulate itself is the best practice. His company generates between 35 and 40 percent of wind energy in Texas, and he said works hard to accommodate the needs of local residents. He said it is the free market environment that has contributed to Texas' status as the leading wind generation state in the country.
The Business and Commerce committee will look at what kind of regulation to place restricting new wind farm construction in the 81st Legislative Session. Chairman Fraser said at Monday's meeting that he would prefer a local regulation of new construction, because local authorities have to answer to residents through local elections.
In addition to Chairman Fraser, the Business and Commerce committee is vice-chaired by Senator Chris Harris and is comprised of Senators Kirk Watson, Leticia Van de Putte, Craig Estes, Eddie Lucio, Jr, Kip Averitt, and Kevin Eltife.