McCAMEY, Texas -- In this small west Texas town where oil was
once king, another source of energy is turning on the horizon.
Lining the 3,000-foot mesas that surround the small town of
McCamey are hundreds of wind turbines that shimmer in the morning
Billed as the wind-energy capital of Texas -- and by some
residents as the next wind capital of the world -- McCamey is hoping
that wind power will replace oil and gas as the region's economic
Like wildcatters before them, wind experts from Great Britain,
Germany and Japan have intermingled with old-time ranchers in this
distant locale. Add in power companies from as far away as Florida,
and McCamey has become an unusual crossroads for clean energy.
Last year, the amount of wind power exploded across Texas, with
more than 956 megawatts added in the Lone Star State -- and 621 of
those megawatts were generated in three counties surrounding
Now, there are 1,100 megawatts of wind power statewide, which can
power 264,000 to 330,000 homes per year, according to the American
Wind Energy Association. That is nearly a fourth of the 4,265
megawatts of wind power generated nationwide.
Texas has a wind potential of 1.19 trillion kilowatt-hours,
meaning it is theoretically possible for the state to produce that
much power each year. That rate is second in the country only to
North Dakota, according to the wind energy association. Texas trails
only California in the amount of wind power generated now.
But many wind-power enthusiasts predict that it's only a matter
of time before Texas leads the nation.
Nowhere is the growth more apparent than atop a mesa just north
of McCamey, where the 214 turbines of the world's largest wind farm,
King Mountain Ranch, turn at sunrise.
The turbines can operate on wind as light as 8 mph and as strong
as 65 mph, and are capable of producing more than 278 megawatts of
electricity per year.
"Texas is blessed with an abundance of wind, with 810 megawatts
in west Texas alone. That is why we're there," said Carol Clawson, a
spokeswoman for Florida-based FPL Energy, which owns King Mountain
Ranch and two other wind plants in the McCamey area that produce
more than 513 megawatts per year.
FPL, a wholesaler, sells its power to such companies as TXU and
Wind energy has provided an economic shot in the arm for ranchers
and has brought brief booms of construction activity as projects are
The three counties where the farms have been built -- Upton,
Pecos and Crockett -- have negotiated with the companies that
operate the farms for tax abatements varying from three to 10 years.
Austin-based Cielo Wind Power and FPL employ a few residents to
help maintain the wind farms.
"I think it will really provide a boost to this area and help
replace some of what has been lost by the slump in the oil and gas
industry," said Randy Sowell of Cielo Wind Power.
"I'm really hoping we'll see some tangible signs of it helping
the economy in both McCamey and Rankin especially. Both of these
towns need the boost."
McCamey Mayor Sherry Phillips said residents have slowly come to
accept the wind farms that now ring the small town.
"Everything was tied to oil. We were definitely an oil town,"
Phillips said. "Initially people were very skeptical, but they've
started to come around. Most people realize the wind farms are a
boon to our economy. They know you have to offer something like
abatements if you want to attract any new industry, especially out
in this remote area."
Down the road on the Upton/Crockett county line, Cielo plans to
build the Noelke Hill Wind Ranch. The farm will have 240 turbines
and produce 240 megawatts per year, officials said.
Crockett County Judge Johnny Jones said his county is unique. …