NY Times does Texas (wind power, diversity, and politics)The NY Times recently had a couple good in-depth articles on Texas I wanted to pass along and excerpt. The March 4 primary is over, but this first article on the incredible size and diversity of the state - and the political complications it creates - is still an interesting one.
Pieces of Texas Turn Primary Into a PuzzleThe next one covers the incredible growth of wind power in Texas.
The rapidly mounting fight in Texas has reminded national political strategists yet again of the state’s unwieldy size and stark geographical differences.
The vast, immigrant-heavy Texas of Houston, where more than 100 languages are spoken in the city’s schools
...trying to make sense of a state as large as New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina combined, and probably even more diverse.
And the rapidly mounting fight has reminded national political strategists yet again of Texas’ strange largeness — or large strangeness — a state that Congress decided in 1845, the year it joined the Union, might well be later divided into four more states should it consent.
That provision stemmed from the debate over slavery, but it was an acknowledgment of the state’s unwieldy size and stark geographical differences, from prairie towns with plainly descriptive names like Notrees and Levelland (used to visit my grandparents there) to the swamps and cypress forests of the Big Thicket National Preserve in the southeast to coastal towns like Galveston, with old Victorian neighborhoods reminiscent of San Francisco.
Texas is also separated into 20 media markets, among the most of any state in the country, with the added necessity of buying advertisements in Oklahoma and Louisiana if you want to cover every corner of it.
Texas, once the oil capital of North America, is rapidly turning into the capital of wind power. After breakneck growth the last three years, Texas has reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines.I'd like to end this post by acknowledging the 3-year anniversary of this blog. Approaching 600 posts and counting. It's been a fun 3 years, and I look forward to keeping it going many more. If you're a relative newcomer to Houston Strategies, or if you're just feeling curious or nostalgic, you can browse highlights from those three years here.
Aesthetic and wildlife issues have led to opposition emerging around the country, particularly in coastal areas like Cape Cod. Some opposition in Texas has cropped up as well, including lawsuits to halt wind farms that were thought to be eyesores or harmful to wetlands.
But the opposition has been limited, and has done little to slow the rapid growth of wind power in Texas. Some Texans see the sleek new turbines as a welcome change in the landscape.
“Texas has been looking at oil and gas rigs for 100 years, and frankly, wind turbines look a little nicer,” said Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, whose responsibilities include leasing state lands for wind energy development. “We’re No. 1 in wind in the United States, and that will never change.”
Texas surpassed California as the top wind farm state in 2006. In January alone, new wind farms representing $700 million of investment went into operation in Texas, supplying power sufficient for 100,000 homes.
Supporters say Texas is ideal for wind-power development, not just because it is windy. It also has sparsely populated land for wind farms, fast-growing cities and a friendly regulatory environment for developers.
“Texas could be a model for the entire nation,” said Patrick Woodson, a senior development executive with E.On, a German utility operating here.
Texas is better equipped to deal with the transmission problems that snarl wind energy in other states because a single agency operates the electrical grid and manages the deregulated utility market in most of the state.
At the end of 2007, Texas ranked No. 1 in the nation with installed wind power of 4,356 megawatts (and 1,238 under construction), far outdistancing California’s 2,439 megawatts (and 165 under construction). Minnesota and Iowa came in third and fourth with almost 1,300 megawatts each (and 46 and 116 under construction, respectively).
Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon, states with smaller populations than Texas, all get 5 to 8 percent of their power from wind farms, according to estimates by the American Wind Energy Association.
It has dawned on many Texans in recent years that wind power, whatever its other pros and cons, represents a potent new strategy for rural economic development.
Since the wind boom began a few years ago, the total value of property here in Nolan County has doubled, and the county judge, Tim Fambrough, estimated it would increase an additional 25 percent this year. County property taxes are going down, home values are going up and the county has extra funds to remodel the courthouse and improve road maintenance.
“Wind reminds us of the old oil and gas booms,” Mr. Fambrough said.