A new study could put 10 Texas counties in front of the pack to lure wind energy companies and related industries to them.
The city of Childress, along with 10 counties and Harmon County in Oklahoma, have formed the Rolling Plains Rural Partnership and are applying for a $150,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office.
The yearlong study, if funding is approved, would place about nine or 10 anemometers around the partnership’s area. The anemometers collect and record wind data for the entire year. The exact areas the towers will be located will be determined by a meteorologist and based on elevations and current and future transmission lines.
What the group is banking on is the creation of the Panhandle Loop, an electrical transmission system being debated that would transmit electricity from West Texas to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s grid, which provides electricity to a majority of Texas residents.
The $1.5 billion loop is in the planning stages, but is awaiting the outcome of June hearings by the Public Utilities Commissions to approve wind energy areas in West Texas.
Wind-energy companies have studied the Panhandle areas in regard to wind energy. Childress City Manager Jerry Cummins said a specific study would put his area that much ahead of the pack.
“Any wind farm that comes in now, it really needs to be site specific. It puts us out front,” Cummins said. “If (wind companies) look at it and decide they want to go to Wheeler County or to Oklahoma, that’s great. We’ll provide the information for everybody to use and hopefully attract some wind farms.”
The Panhandle Regional Planning Commission approved the grant application last week, but will not be a part of the project, said Sean Hardman, PRPC assistant regional services director.
The application will be scored against about 25 other applications received by the USDA Rural Development Office in Temple.
The office’s Public Information Coordinator Gayle Cargo said two of the 25 applications submitted will be sent on to the national office where only one program will receive funding.
“One from each state will get funded,” Cargo said. “If they have extra funding, they will go back through the pool of those that didn’t get funded and try to help them. It doesn’t happen every year and it’s not a guarantee.”
Childress County already has moved into the wind-energy field with a wind farm planned by Wind- RosePower LLC, Cummins said.
“They are going to be the first one to put in a wind farm. They are already looking to purchase turbines,” Cummins said of the 100-megawatt project.
WindRosePower partners could not be reached for comment.
Cummins said DeWind, a turbine manufacturer, might be locating in Childress County.
“If you get a blade plant or a gear box plant that employs 100 people, that is a big deal for our rural counties,” Cummins said.
“It adds a really large dollar figure to the tax base. Counties and schools and hospital districts, they can see the benefit.”
Grant announcements are expected to take place in July.
Ten counties have formed the Rolling Plains Rural Partnership. The partnership is applying for a $150,000 grant to conduct a wind study that could provide data that would lure energy companies to develop wind farms in partnership communities.
Partnership counties: Wheeler, Donley, Collingsworth, Briscoe, Hall, Childress, Motley, Cottle, Foard, Hardeman and Harmon (Oklahoma).
By Sean Thomas
4 April 2007
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