Wind is now the top source of renewable power in the nation. In the latest report from the American Wind Energy Association, Texas leads the nation in wind power production.
Last year, the wind in the Lone Star State produced more than 20,000 megawatts of electricity.
“That’s enough energy to power more than 5.7 million homes here in Texas, and also provide more than 25,000 jobs here in Texas,” said Tom Kiernan, who runs the wind energy trade group.
Now, if renewable energy conjures images of hippies hugging trees, that’s a bit of an outdated image. The backdrop for the American Wind Association's news conference Thursday helped sell that message: It was the factory floor of the General Motors’ Arlington Assembly Plant. That factory produces 1,200 big SUVs every day. It’s in the middle of a $1.4 billion expansion, and by 2018, it’ll be run entirely on renewable energy, most of it from wind.
“It’s reliable, it’s affordable, it just makes good business sense,” Kiernan said.
All of that has meant more jobs in the wind energy industry building and maintaining those soaring wind turbines – more than 100,000 nationwide. It’s also put money into rural communities: Wind energy companies paid some $60 million in land leases to Texas farmers last year.
“Wind in Texas has gone from something that we would cuss every day, to now helping families to keep the ranch from one family to the next,” said Ken Becker, who heads economic development for the West Texas town of Sweetwater.
With some $60 billion worth of new operations in the pipeline nationwide, wind power won’t be winding down any time soon.