Turbines in the oil patch


Driving out of the dusty little town of Sweetwater, the climb up to the High Plain reveals a few small clumps of wind turbines, the odd row of them, nothing special.

I've seen plenty of wind farms and I wonder if I'm the victim of Texan bragging: the claim to host five of the largest wind installations in the world.

But the higher I get, the further I can see and soon there's an extraordinary vista: ridge after rolling ridge crowded with thickets of turbines.

This dry, treeless landscape has suddenly sprouted whole forests of stark white towers stretching into the distance, the giant blades gently circling in the breeze.

It's green energy on an industrial scale that any environmentalist would dream of - and it's all come about in a frenetic rush in the past decade.


The numbers are staggering. This one county, Nolan County, hosts no fewer than 1,400 turbines. Texas has as many as 6,000 overall. Combined output: something like 9,000MW, roughly the output of nine power stations.

At first sight, you might think this couldn't be a clearer example of the United States tackling climate change.

But the Mayor of Sweetwater, Greg Wortham, puts me right on that. Support for wind energy, he explains, is based on the jobs and wealth generated.

A single wind turbine can earn a landowner $10,000 a year. A field of cotton can more than double its revenue if turbines are planted.

It's popular - but whatever you do, don't mention the climate, say Mr Wortham. It's too polarising.


The march of wind turbines may continue across the plains of Texas - and other alternatives like solar may well expand rapidly, too - but the case for them will not involve the word "climate".

In the same field where a dozen turbines stand, "nodding donkey" pumps draw oil from the rocks below.

The rushing whoosh of the turbine blades mixes with a steady, rhythmic creak from the oil machine. I wonder, which sound will be heard longest?
It should also be pointed out that the state did not need to subsidize the turbines, although the state of Texas is spending some money to get power lines from the wind farms to the cities.


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