July 25, 2006

Texas Tops California in Harnessing Wind Power

HOUSTON -- Texas has overtaken California as the top wind power producer in the United States, an industry group said on Tuesday.

The addition of new power lines was "one of the reasons Texas has pulled ahead of California," said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based industry group the American Wind Energy Association.

New transmission lines were needed to flow power from windy areas in the western half of the state to population centers where the power is consumed.

The AWEA said Texas's cumulative total of wind power is now 2,370 megawatts of capacity, enough to power over 600,000 homes.

California, which had led the country in wind power for 25 years, has 2,323 MW of wind power capacity.

Wind energy accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity production, but it is one of the fastest growing sectors in energy.

Cumulative U.S. wind power capacity has risen to 9,971 MW, or 30 to 40 average sized natural gas-fired power generators, according to AWEA.

Projects totaling 822 MW have been completed so far this year, and the AWEA expects a record 3,000 MW of wind generation will be added in 2006, surpassing 2005's total of 2,431 MW.

New wind projects exceeding 9,000 MW are in the early stages of negotiating transmission service in Texas, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, the state grid operator.

Three projects totaling 374 MW have come online so far this year in Texas and another 400 MW are under construction, according to AWEA.

In May, a Houston-based wind farm developer announced a 500-MW offshore wind farm, the largest offshore project announced in the U.S. to date. Construction is expected to begin in about three years.

California continues to add wind farms. The Pacific Northwest and New York are also active areas, said Real de Azua.

But about 500 MW of wind generation, mostly in the Midwest, faces delays related to concern over the impact of wind turbines on military or civilian radar, Real de Azua said.

The group is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense to get the projects moving again, she said.

"We want to look at all possible remedies as well as the impacts," said Real de Azua.

Earlier this year, the Global Wind Energy Council said in 2005 the United States led the world in the installation of new wind power capacity, but its total wind power base was still less than half of Germany's.