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More and More Communities Want in on Wind

More and More Communities Want in on Wind

Date: 8/26/2008

Location: TX

Source: Stacia Cudd, National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service

Audio with Travis Brown, Renewable Energy Community Service Specialist at the Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs (MP3 2.5 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:38.

Rural communities across the country are facing challenges.

"Declining populations, aging populations, lowering tax bases and, in most cases, really aging infrastructures: old water lines that leak, sewer systems that don't work. So they need a lot of help and don't have a lot of resources."

That's Travis Brown, Renewable Energy Community Specialist at the Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs, an office created in 2001 to improve the quality of life in rural Texas. He says renewable energy has tremendous potential to help revitalize rural communities.

In Texas, he says big wind farms have greatly benefited rural communities. As a result, the competition to get wind projects is intensifying.

"You have not only landowners who want them on their property because of the royalties they get, you have communities and counties basically fighting each other to have wind farms come to their community there. Because they've seen what the benefits can be and they've seen what wind farms are like and what they're not like."

Brown says it's not difficult to understand why producers are interested in getting involved.

"Just like everywhere, farmers and ranchers in Texas have had a tough time for a long time. And if you're out there in west Texas and you're breaking even, or barely breaking even, or in most cases not, and you have the opportunity to realize some additional new income by having wind turbines put out there on your pastureland or your cropland, then that can really be the difference between you being able to stay in business or not and being able to keep your land and pass it on to your family."

The key, Brown says, is building new transmission lines that can bring the power generated by wind farms back to the market. He notes the best wind resources are in west Texas — but there aren't a lot of big power lines.

"Just year before last, the legislature ordered the state to begin a planning process to build some big lines out there and it's been a slow, slow process. And that's one of the problems, you can put up a big wind farm in six months, but to build transmission lines can take years and years for a number of reasons. But we're slowly moving, we have some really innovative plans on the books now, the state's moving forward to start getting construction on those. And I guess the latest estimate is hopefully within five years, we'll have some major lines out there."

The nation's current wind power capacity is more than 18-thousand megawatts. More than 55-hundred megawatts is under construction. On a state-by-state basis, Texas is leading the way with more than five-thousand megawatts of wind energy installed and almost two-thousand megawatts under construction.

This information was last updated on September 02, 2008