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Texas Seeks $4.9 Billion For Wind Farms

Six companies plan to file a proposal to build 2,400 miles of transmission lines in Texas to support a growing number of wind farms in the state.

Six electric utilities and transmission companies plan to file a $4.93 billion proposal on Friday to build a roughly 2,400-mile transmission lines to ferry wind power in Texas.

The new transmission lines could lead to about 18.5 gigawatts of new wind-power projects in the state's central western region and the Panhandle, according to the commission (see commission report).

Studies by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas estimate the amount of power that would be developed in those areas, came up with the scope of the transmission lines project and the $4.93 billion estimated project cost.

The consortium includes Electric Transmission Texas, LCRA Transmission Services Corp., Oncor Electric Delivery, Sharyland Utilities, South Texas Electric Cooperative and Texas-New Mexico Power Co.

The companies will have to pay for building their part of the new network. Electric Transmission, for one, estimated that its share of the project would cost $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion.

The consortium's proposal will need approval from the utility commission.

Renewable-energy advocates consider the lack of new or upgraded transmission networks to be a missing link in all of these public and private efforts to promote wind, solar and other renewable energy in the United States. The country's electric grid is rickety and lacks the capacity to support the increasing amount of renewable energy. Yet utilities and transmission providers have largely been reluctant to invest in expensive new lines.

The electric-power industry would have to spend $60 billion on transmission lines to enable wind energy to make up 20 % of the country's power supply by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In many states, power companies have to share their transmission lines to promote competition, a mandate that offers little incentives for the companies to invest in new networks.

The wind-energy boom in the country has sharpened the focus on the aging grid. Many wind energy developers are leery of erecting turbines in areas with inadequate or no transmission networks (see Wind Power Waiting on Transmission-Line Boom).

One wealthy developer, T. Boone Pickens, said he would build his own transmission lines. Pickens, a wind-energy and natural-gas evangelist, plans to spend about $12 billion to build a 4-gigawatt wind project, along with supporting transmission lines, in the Texas Panhandle (see T. Boone Pickens Has a Plan).

While renewable-energy project developers, including power companies, fret over the aging electric grid, they continue to invest heavily in new solar and wind power plants.

The United States has doubled its wind energy generating capability in the last two years, reaching more than 20 gigawatts, the American Wind Energy Association said last week (see U.S. Wind Power Doubles in Two Years).

Texas leads other states in wind-energy development. The Lone Star State had installed about 5.31 gigawatts of wind-power plants by the first quarter of this year, according to a state report called the "2008 Texas State Energy Plan" released in July.

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