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NewsTexas leads U.S. in wind power installationsTexas has surpassed Califor-nia - the global birthplace of the commercial wind power industry - as the state with the most installed wind power capacity.The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced that, as of the end of June, Texas had 2,370 megawatts of wind power capacity in service compared to California's current total of 2,323 megawatts.Texas Gov. Rick Perry marked the milestone by saying, “No state is more committed to de-veloping renewable sources of energy than Texas. By harnessing the wind for energy, we are providing Texans with clean, affordable and renewable energy. Wind is good business for Texas.”California had held the No. 1 spot for nearly 25 years. But after installing its first commercial wind projects between El Paso and Big Bend a decade ago, Texas has surged ahead of all others in the use of this environmentally clean technology. Texas' 2,370 megawatts of wind power plants will provide about 2 percent of the huge state's annual electricity needs, enough to serve 500,000 Texas homes. While some less populous states use more wind power on a percentage basis - for instance, New Mexico's 406 megawatts of wind power satisfy about 7 percent of its electricity needs - no state can match Texas' business-friendly climate for stimulating new wind power plant construction.“The wind industry expects to complete $2 billion worth of new projects in Texas during 2006, and there's far more potential yet untapped. Our members find the Texas market very attractive and appear to be motivated to build wind power projects as fast as transmission lines can be built to windy areas of the state,” said Mike Sloan, managing consultant for The Wind Coalition, a regional wind industry group.A West Texas A&M University study suggests that there remain more than 500,000 megawatts of potential wind power development sites in Texas - a virtually unlimited supply of home-grown renewable energy among the wind-swept mesas and plains of West Texas, the Panhandle and along the Coastal Bend. While energy companies and electric customers alike would like to see more of this cost-effective resource developed, future opportunities are seriously limited by the lack of needed infrastructure.In recognition of a host of energy challenges facing the state and nation, Gov. Perry formed the Texas Energy Planning Council on Nov. 10, 2003, tapping Texas Railroad Commis-sioner Victor Carrillo to lead the 22 member group of energy industry and state leaders. Among the council's final recommendations were to direct the Public Utility Commission “to take the necessary steps to overcome transmission capacity obstacles that are limiting the development of renewable power sources.”The Planning Council's renewable energy recommendation was turned into law through the persistent efforts of Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and Rep. Phil King (R-Weath-erford). The resulting legislation, Senate Bill 20, was passed during the first called special session and signed by Gov. Perry on Aug. 2, 2005. This legislation assures transmission development to wind-rich resource areas designated as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones, increases to 5,880 megawatts by 2015 the minimum level of renewable energy that the state must achieve, and additionally sets a long-term renewable capacity target of 10,000 megawatts by 2025. The details of the process are now in the hands of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which is expected to issue final rules by the end of this year.Many wonder how Texas - a state known for oil and gas - has been able to outpace California in the deployment of any environmental technology. Sloan said, “Since 1999, Texas has laid out the welcome mat for wind developers in the form of a clear renewable energy vision from the Legislature and straightforward, effective rules from ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and the PUC (Public Utility Commission). Now that the leaders in Texas have committed to overcoming transmission infrastructure shortages - something no other state has effectively done - the wind industry is responding.”
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