Plainview and Hale County are set to become a major hub in wind energy development with more than 2,000 turbines in the region producing an estimated 4,072 MW of electrical power.
Mike Fox, executive director of the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation, reported to Hale County commissioners on Friday that at least a dozen wind farms are in some phase of development in the region, with almost half expected to be under construction within the next 12 months.
Making his quarterly report on economic development at Friday’s work session, Fox noted that the largest of the listed projects, Tri-Global’s Hale Community Wind, will produce about 1,100 MW of electricity. It will be constructed in five phases, Fox said, with about 111 turbines erected in each phase.
Five other projects on Fox’s list will likely be served by component off-loading/distribution centers in Plainview. Those are Floyd County’s South Plains Wind which will produce about 500 MW; Castro County’s Hereford 2 with 300 MW, Floyd and Briscoe counties’ Longhorn North at 200 MW, Crosby County’s Fiber Winds with 80 MW and Floyd County’s Blanco Canyon at 400 MW.
Other projects on the EDC list are located near Groom, Panhandle, Pampa, Vega, Spearman and Perryton. Not included on Fox’s breakdown is the Plainview Orchard Project that has been proposed northwest of Plainview.
“We’re planning to have Ken Becker, executive director for Sweetwater Economic Development, here in January for a lunch and learning session since they already have been through what we are looking at,” Fox said. “He will be helping us with some of the dos and don’ts on wind energy development.”
Plainview already has one distribution facility in place for wind turbine components, with additional facilities possible.
“In addition to the distribution center near Azteca, we have had a site selection team looking to put in another off-loading facility here. The wind turbines are going up all over the South Plains, and hopefully most of the components will be off-loaded and distributed from Plainview,” Fox said.
There’s another distribution center in operation at Sunray, he said.
Fox in recent days also has been working with site selection teams for a construction company that constructs concrete bases for the wind turbines. He also has met with a team from an alternative energy company that is seeking a 20-acre site. That firm potentially would employ about 40 locally during its first year, increasing to perhaps 140 once in full operation.
“I’ve also met with the sight selectors for a food processing company that is looking for an existing building for its physical plant,” Fox said. If the company locates in Plainview, it would likely have an initial workforce of 40-50.
Although the community has faced serious economic challenges since the closure of Cargill in early 2013, Fox admits “we’re still not where we want to be, but we are much better off than many expected.” He noted that unemployment has fallen by more than half to 7.2 percent in October from its post-Cargill peak of about 15.0 percent. Prior to Cargill’s closure, the local jobless rate was 6.2 percent.
“We’ve heard recent announcements that the Walmart Distribution Center is hiring 70 new employees,” he noted. “White Energy has done its expansion and is now hiring and Golden Spread Electrical Cooperative is well into the $550 million three-phase expansion of its Antelope/Elk Energy Center” north of Abernathy.
Fox noted that Larson International is adding 14 new employees and 22,000 square-feet to its manufacturing facility, Andalucia Nuts is current testing its new facility and should begin production soon, Covenant Health Plainview has a $40 million expansion planned for 2015 and Reagor-Dykes Toyota will add 50 to 100 new jobs following construction of its new $2 million dealership.
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