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Getting More Texas Wind Power on the Grid

PHOTO: Wind turbines near Sweetwater, Texas. The Center for Rural Affairs says more high voltage transmission lines will help get wind generated electricity on the grid. CREDIT: Sheila Scarborough
PHOTO: Wind turbines near Sweetwater, Texas. The Center for Rural Affairs says more high voltage transmission lines will help get wind generated electricity on the grid. CREDIT: Sheila Scarborough
February 25, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas - There is a treasure trove of renewable energy in the U.S., but the obstacles and barriers to getting it on the grid are many. Johnathan Hladik, energy policy advocate with the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), said the biggest hurdle right now is the lack of high voltage transmission lines. Adding to that infrastructure would allow for the use of more renewable resources, he said, while helping with rural economic development.

"There is so much opportunity associated with increased property tax paid by wind-turbine owners and by those building transmission lines, with the actual construction jobs associated with both the wind turbines and the transmission lines," he explained. "We're looking at a good way to rejuvenate a lot of our smaller communities."

Currently, less than 1 percent of the country's transmission lines with the greatest capacity are located in the states with the most wind-energy potential.

The problem, Hladik pointed out, is that when lines were built historically, they focused on one big power plant, serving one large municipal area, while smaller lines were put up in rural areas.

"This old model led to a situation where the only high-capacity transmission lines in the United States, quite literally, are located in areas of very high population density," he said "which are the exact opposite areas of where our wind resources are most robust."

As for Texas in particular, Hladik said the wind energy potential is very rich.

"There's been so much effort to really develop the wind resources in Texas and a lot of that has been successful," he said, "but they're running into serious brick walls at this point with that transmission bottleneck, with not having enough transmission to tap those resources."

Electricity generation from renewable energy resources in the U.S. is currently at about 10 percent of the total. That is expected to grow to 15 percent over the next 20 years.

More information is available at www.cfra.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX