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Wind industry relying less on government funding

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AMARILLO -- Xcel Energy is planning the purchase of several wind energy contracts they say will save customers more than $580 million in fuel costs over the next 20 years.


What's big about this wind energy purchase is that Xcel made this decision because it's a good business decision, not because they're required to by law.

What started out as a state mandate is now becoming just another way to cut costs for many utility companies.

"Each state has a mandate saying how much renewable energy you must have. We have met and often exceeded that. So we were basically just shopping for a good deal and found some really good deals with this wind," Xcel spokesperson Wes Reeves said.

Those good deals are thanks in part to a federal tax credit awarded to wind facilities that start construction by the end of this year.

Xcel is purchasing wind from three new facilities to be built in the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma, and New Mexico; something a utility company never would have expected to be doing on their own accord.

"We've actually bought a lot more wind than we thought possible 10 years ago," Reeves said.

Even researchers with West Texas A&M's Alternative Energy Institute couldn't predict how quickly the wind industry would blow up. But they now have a fair forecast for the near future.

"The new electric lines that the utility is putting in right now will double the install capacity here in the panhandle in the next five years. That means for every wind turbine you see here in the panhandle, expect to see two more," AEI Assistant Director Ken Starcher said.

It's not just wind developers who will benefit. The growing and successful wind industry will need more civil, mechanical and electrical engineers; providing local jobs for WTAMU graduates and work for existing local business.

"Dirt work, a lot of concrete work, people building roads. In Oldham county they've talked about the need for fences and there have been a lot of contractors who make a lot of money just building fences and all these are local people," Reeves said.

The new wind farms Xcel is partnering with in the panhandle will be located in Hansford and Ochiltree counties. Others will be in Dewey and Blaine counties in Oklahoma, and in Roosevelt county in New Mexico.

Construction on those will start by the end of this year.

 

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