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Policy Maker, McCamey, Texas
In 2008, Texas surpassed 6,000 megawatts of wind capacity, far and away the leader in the United States and the 6th largest wind power market in the world.
On the edge of West Texas, a land of flat-top mesas and dwindling oil fields, a new economic savior has blown into town. Welcome to McCamey, Texas. A 1920s oil boom town, the 1,800 residents of this town now are coping with a tapped-out oil supply by embracing the potential of wind, a renewable resource Mayor Sherry Phillips says has made McCamey more famous than oil ever did. In fact, the state named McCamey the "wind energy capital of Texas."
"I wanted to pursue wind as a business for our community. I was pro-wind farm even though we're an oil-based community," said Phillips, who was elected in 2000. "The oil industry was very good for us. But as things go, you find better ways to do things."
More than 860 wind turbines today pinwheel on the flat-top mountains where oil derricks once bloomed, cranking out pollution-free megawatts for such wind developers as FPL Energy. In turn, that energy is transmitted to cities across the state.
On King Mountain, 214 wind turbines producing nearly 300 megawatts of clean power generate energy for customers of Reliant Energy, Austin Energy and Texas-New Mexico Power Company. Construction of the project created new jobs, lease payments for landowners and millions in tax revenue for the town. About 40 jobs in turbine operations and maintenance have stayed in the —a good number, Phillips points out, for a town with a population of 1,800.
The possibilities are endless, Phillips says, for wind power generation in McCamey. But she stresses the need for private investment, government funding, and transmission lines to carry the power to market.
"Lawmakers need to put something in place to guarantee tax credits. If we had the infrastructure, meaning power lines, we'd have plenty of room for solar power too," Phillips said. "But if you can't get it out to market you have a problem."