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Texas, A Wind Energy 'All Star' State

Sarah Fields Photography

The largest federally-owned wind farm is about to be built at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced today. The five-turbine project will power more than 60 percent of the plant once it is complete.

Texas is already the country’s biggest and fastest-growing wind energy market — in 2012, it added more wind power capacity than any other state according to a recent DOE report.

True, the lone-star state is better known for fracking than wind energy, but Texas – which had had more than 12 gigawatts of wind power installed at the end of 2012 – has more wind power than all but five countries worldwide.

For those who want to mix in a little green gold in the mostly black energy basket that fuels Texas, the DOE’s “all star” ranking comes as welcome news. Problem is, the majority of wind power comes from the western part of the state, hundreds of miles from major cities like Dallas and Fort Worth. Getting the energy from one side of the state to the other hasn’t been easy. Still, energy companies have made some pretty significant progress.

Credit Office of the Governor
A map of wind farms across Texas shows the majority are located in West Texas, generating electricity hundreds of miles from major cities such as Dallas and Fort Worth.

  In an attempt to tackle the transmission quandary, in 2005 the Texas Legislature created the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) initiative. The CREZ is meant to encourage electric companies to build transmission lines from those wind farms in West Texas to major metro areas across the state. The cost of these lines is estimated to be more than $6.8 billion.

So how far have we come? Turns out, pretty far. The overall CREZ project consists of nearly 3,600 miles of transmission lines – running as far south as San Antonio and as far north as Amarillo — and according to Kent Saathoff, executive advisor at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), most of the heavy construction is complete. The entire project, which will bring on line up to 18,456MW of energy, is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year.

Clickhere to see a map of CREZ transmission lines.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.