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Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Texas Leads in Wind Power Capacity, Not Production

August 8, 2011

LYONS, Neb. - Texas leads the nation in installed wind-power capacity, but the state is failing to exploit all those turbines because of underdeveloped infrastructure. Wind power contributed only about 3 percent of the 68,000 megawatts used during one of last week's record-breaking peak-usage hours.

The Center for Rural Affairs recently completed a report on the wind industry. Energy policy analyst Johnathan Hladik says 40 percent of the nation's electricity demand could be satisfied by wind power - with the cost of production now less than that of coal-fired plants, in many states.

"The technology has improved so much that now we are seeing, in high-wind areas, wind being sold for $65 per megawatt hour and conventional sources such as coal, which for the most part is the cheapest, at $68 per megawatt hour."

Natural gas and coal plants typically supply more than three-quarters of Texas' electricity needs. Both types of production require large amounts of water - one more reason energy analysts are saying Texas needs to hurry up and fulfill its wind potential during current drought conditions.

The production challenge in Texas is the same as in much of the rest of the country: There aren't enough transmission lines to move wind-farm energy into widespread distribution. Hladik says a majority of the nation's lines were built 50 years ago. New investment, he explains, would improve grid reliability and promote wind generation at the same time.

"We have over 275,000 megawatts of wind that are in situations where the turbines are up and built and the turbines are spinning but the turbines aren't producing electricity because we don't have the transmission infrastructure to bring that electricity to where it's needed the most."

Hladik says 30,000 to 40,000 miles of new lines are needed by 2030, adding that every $1 billion spent would support 13,000 full-time jobs. Wind advocates are urging faster line development in Texas before federal stimulus funds aimed at wind production expire next year.

The report is available at www.cfra.org. Business Facilities' state rankings of alternative energy capacity are online at http://bit.ly/nqLd37.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX