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Texas Decision Could Double Wind Power Capacity in the U.S.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) issued an Interim Final Order yesterday that could enable construction of up to 22,806 Megawatts (MW) of new wind power in Texas. A final order, transmission plan, and budget are still pending before the Commission but are expected to be finalized in early 2008.

The order designates five Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle and authorizes development of transmission lines needed to deliver electricity produced in those windy CREZ areas to customers throughout Texas.

"While many states are talking about ways to bring more clean energy to customers and improve air quality, Texas is doing it," says Mike Sloan, Managing Consultant of The Wind Coalition, a regional wind advocacy group operating in the south central United States.

Adds Sloan, "Texas' proactive transmission process is drawing a lot of attention; we expect the CREZ process to become a model for the nation." 

Texas' CREZ model has already been embraced by California and Colorado, with additional Western states also considering its use.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has initiated a Transmission Optimization Study to develop options for delivering wind power from the five CREZ zones to customers throughout the ERCOT power grid, including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Total wind capacity served in ERCOT's studies, from both new and existing projects, will range from 10,000 MW to 22,806 MW. 

Based on ERCOT's 2006 CREZ analysis, 5,250 MW of new wind installations would reduce customer payments to power generators by $1.2 billion per year (equivalent to $3.47 per month per residential customer). 

Spurred by successful renewable energy development policies, Texas surpassed California during 2006 to become the nation's leader in wind capacity. The American Wind Energy Association reports that Texas currently has more than 3,300 MW of installed wind capacity out of the nation's total of 12,634 MW.  

During 2007, Texas is expected to add more than half of all new wind installations in the United States.

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