Texas looks to increase transmission lines for wind energy

Texas is the country's largest producer of energy from wind, but transmission capacity has fallen short. The state is making plans to increase capacity.

The Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on July 17 gave preliminary approval to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from West Texas to urban areas like Dallas.

"People think about oil wells and football in Texas, but in 10 years they'll look back and say this was a brilliant thing to do," said Patrick Woodson, vice president of E.On Climate & Renewables North America, in a report issued by the Associated Press (AP). E.On has about 1,200 MW of wind projects already in use or planned in Texas.

Texas currently generates about 5,000 MW from wind energy, but wind-energy advocates say the lack of transmission lines has kept a lot of that power from being put to use and has hindered the building of more turbines.

Most of Texas' wind energy production is in West Texas, where nearly 4,000 wind turbines operate. The new plan would add transmission lines capable of moving about 18,000 MW of electricity, enough energy to power more than 4 million Texas homes.

Texas electric customers will bear the cost of construction over the next several years, paying about $3 or $4 more per month on their bills, according to Tom Smith, state director of the consumer group Public Citizen. But he predicted that increase would easily be offset by lower energy prices.

The plan still needs final approval later this year from the PUC. The transmission lines would not be operational for three to five years. Who would build them and other details have yet to be worked out.

The PUC decision comes on the heels of billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens’ announced plan to build the world's largest wind farm on about 200,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle. When completed, Pickens' 2,700 turbines will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.

Information: apnews.myway.com/article/20080717/D91VR9N80.html