Texas Wind Could Blow Energy Crisis Away

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The landscape in Texas is changing.

Wide open, wind-whipped plains now have gigantic visitors --wind turbines. Their large blades carve through the air to provide energy.

"Texas is now number one in the country in producing wind energy," said Steve Stengel, the Director of Communications of FPL Energy. "Texas is blessed with a wonderful natural resource, and that's the wind."

Click play to hear Pat Robertson weigh in on the 'wind alternative' following this CBN News report.

FPL Energy operates the world's largest wind farm near Abilene, Texas -- the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center. There, more than 400 wind turbines sit on 60,000 acres over two counties.

From a distance the turbines may not seem that impressive, but take a look up close, and you can see just how huge they are. From the base to the top of the tower, they're around 260 feet.  Add to that seven-ton blades, each one around 125 feet in length.  Altogether, you end up with a structure that is around 40 stories tall.

"The higher you go up, the better the wind," Stengel said. "The longer the blade, the better that blade is to capture the energy that's in the wind. The energy comes down the turbine, goes into a substation and then out to the transmission system."

Wind Technician Jeff Briscoe monitors the turbines at a central computer bank, and if necessary, makes the long climb up turbine towers to make repairs.

"A lot of data is collected every day, every hour, so that we can determine, 'Hey, are these things producing the way they should,'" Briscoe commented.

At maximum capacity, Stengel says the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center can generate 735 megawatts. That's enough power for just under 200,000 average Texas homes.

In the entire United States, The American Wind Energy Association reports that so far this year, the electricity generated from wind amounts to around 48 billion kilowatt-hours. That's enough to power approximately 4.5 million average American homes, but only a little more than one percent of the U.S. electricity supply.

Texas oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens believes wind should have a much greater role than just one percent, and he's in the middle of a media campaign to explain why.

"My wife finally told me, quit talking about it at home, and go do it," chuckled Pickens, the CEO of BP Capital.

CBN News sat down with Pickens at the Dallas office of BP Capital, to discuss his plan that's generating international buzz, a plan that promotes wind.

"You have to move forward, and in the predicament that we're in, we have to develop the resources that are available to us," Pickens said.

That predicament, he says, is America importing 70 percent of its oil at a cost of 700 billion dollars a year. Pickens believes increasing the amount of electric power supplied by wind will help America break its addiction to foreign oil.

The "Pickens Plan" calls for building new wind farms to generate around 22 percent of our electricity. That would replace the role of natural gas in power generation, and allow it to be used more as a transportation fuel. Pickens says using natural gas to run our cars would then reduce our imports of oil by 38 percent or 300 billion dollars annually.

"If you could get say, 300 billion a year back to this country, can you imagine how many jobs that would be -- jobs, profits, taxes, economy moves forward, but it's all going out of the country," said Pickens.

To Pickens and his growing number of supporters, wind is vital to keeping it here. He's working to build an even bigger wind farm than the one at Horse Hollow. Plans call for the new world's largest -- a four thousand megawatt farm -- to be built near Pampa, Texas in the panhandle. He says it's not about making more money.

"I've got plenty of money," Pickens said. "I don't need any money. This is all about America. It's all about the generations in the future, not about me. For energy, I can make it to the finish line, but I'm not sure you can or your kids can."

"Even already just knowing things are coming, and that wind energy's the next technology, we're already seeing the excitement and the synergy," said Trevlyn Pitner, the city manager of Pampa. "People are buying property. They're looking at moving here and moving their businesses here."

"There are people who would like to see Pampa never change, but I'm not one of them," commented Monta Hinkle, a resident of Pampa. "I would like to see Pampa grow and encourage people to come here, and if we can provide a cleaner, cheaper energy source, we need to do it."

But wind power is not only produced on large-scale farms. Home and business owners are investing in what's known as small wind -- smaller turbines to power their personal needs.

One small wind turbine powers the greenhouse at a school in Trent, Texas. Science Teacher Leanna West, who also serves as the mayor of Trent, is behind this lesson in wind energy.

"I wanted to provide a system that the kids could learn about, but also take with them for the rest of their lives about how to save energy," West said.

Virgil Kester sells and installs small wind turbines. He says they can help lower your utility bills, and he's seen a spike in the number of inquiries.

"Just a couple of weeks ago, we couldn't hardly leave the phone, just continual calls, more than we'd ever had," Kester said.

Still, he acknowledges, they're not for everyone.

"It's not quite as accepted in the cities," said Kester. "The neighbors don't like them right up next to you. It's more of a rural appliance."

Critics of wind power systems complain they're noisy, unattractive and threaten wildlife, including birds. There's also the concern, what happens when there's little or no wind?

"Wind is an intermittent resource," Stengel said. "So on a given day, this facility may not be generating at its maximum capacity, it usually is generating something, and that's good news."

Glenn Patton is a director at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, Texas, a museum devoted to the history of wind power. He says wind is part of the solution to our energy troubles, not the only solution.

"Therefore, we do need some forms of fossil fuel and coal to make up the difference when the wind farms are not making enough, or the wind is not blowing," Patton said.

But with one of the strongest wind corridors in the world, right in the middle of our country, advocates like T. Boone Pickens say the pros definitely outweigh the cons of this emission-free energy source, and he wants to get the word out.

"I think the Lord has equipped me to do a lot of things, and it's kind of up to me to get out with what He's given me and get the job done," Pickens said.

*Originally Published September 22, 2008

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