For all the negotiations and secrecy involved over the past year in bringing Martifer Energy Systems to San Angelo, a key component remains unresolved.
The company can begin building wind-turbine towers as soon as its construction plant is complete, but it won't be able to send them anywhere until a narrow Ballinger railroad bridge is replaced.
"If we don't have the bridge, we can't ship through rail," said Martifer financial controller Silvio Teixeira.
TexDOT says the Ralph Fair Road bridge over Interstate 10 is hopelessly damaged and will have to be demolished and replaced, a job which is expected to take several months.
The bridge has been closed since late June after a truck hauling a propeller wing for a wind power turbine in west Texas slammed into one of the bridge abutments. Engineers say it will be impossible to repair the bridge.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Marc Owen, Tidwell was spraying a pesticide over the field Thursday morning when he crashed into a wind tower.
The tower, a 400-foot structure erected to collect wind data, sheared off a piece of the plane's wing.
State regulators welcomed wind farms into Texas' unfettered wholesale power market through a special process to designate the best wind-power production zones and to accelerate construction of power lines -- costing from $3 billion to $6 billion -- needed to link those remote areas to more populated areas of the state.
However, problems that surfaced in the Texas wholesale market as wind's influence reached a critical level this spring should be a warning for the rest of the nation, said Lawrence Makovich, vice president and senior power adviser at Cambridge Energy Research Associates.
"Wind is not a direct substitute for conventional power supply," said Makovich. ...Wind is attractive if added in moderation, Makovich said.
"It has a desirable environmental profile, but you want to incorporate a smart amount of wind," he said. "If you add too much, you may impose too much additional cost."
Whooping cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, have waged a valiant battle against extinction. But federal officials warn of a new potential threat to the endangered whoopers: wind farms.
Down to as few as 16 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate 2,400 miles each fall from Canada to Texas, thanks to conservation efforts, now number about 266.
But because wind energy, one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy, has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk - from either crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms.
"Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The transmission lines face formidable opposition stemming from concerns that the natural landscape will be blighted. A number of landowners in the region have filed objections to the lines - notably a coalition called Protect North Palo Duro Canyon, which has sprung up to fight proposed routes that would cut through private land just north of the state park of the same name.
"Federal incentives for renewable energy, I believe, have distorted the competitive wholesale market" on the Texas grid, Nelson told the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Nelson said she believes those distortions are "one of the primary causes" of the current strains on the grid, and added: "I think we all need to move with extreme caution before adopting any additional incentives or mandates."
When it comes to the biggest decision facing CPS - how to meet the energy shortage looming in the next decade or so - utility officials are adamant that renewable resources like solar and wind are not yet ready to shoulder the lion's share of the load.
The proposed solution instead is to add two nuclear reactors to the South Texas Project. Utility officials insist the proposed $5.2 billion investment is cheaper and more reliable than solar or wind.
The situation has the local anti-nuclear coalition Energia Mia and statewide renewable energy proponents outraged.
Austin Energy customers are one reason the agency is moving ahead so rapidly, he said. They're willing to pay more for renewables - so much so, the program had to close when all the energy was spoken for. When the program reopened this month, most of the available energy sold out within the first week to industrial companies, despite a price difference of 2 cents per kilowatt hour. ...He also noted that adding renewables doesn't change customer expectations.
"They expect near-perfect reliability," he said, "and they expect it at a low price."
Springs Utilities, which is heavily reliant on coal to power its electric plants, had planned to build another coal plant within the next decade. But in the past six months, City Council members have said they want to delay the plant or cut its size by supplementing with renewables or managing demand better.
Councilman Randy Purvis, who attended Wednesday's session, said Colorado Springs customers are like Austin's - they've said on surveys they're willing to pay more for alternatives, such as wind.
But so far, Springs Utilities has offered only a small amount of wind, about 1 megawatt, and sells it to customers who sign up to pay more.
Joel Serface, director of the Clean Energy Incubator at the University of Texas at Austin and a contributor to the report, adds that a recent University of California-Berkeley study found the solar industry produces seven to 11 times as many jobs on a MW capacity basis as coal-fired power plants - and has a larger positive trickle-down effect than wind energy
The Texas comptroller, not local school districts, should be in charge of negotiating school property tax breaks to businesses to attract large-scale investments such as manufacturing plants or wind farms, a new report by the Legislative Budget Board recommends.
Texas should meet its growing electricity demand by encouraging more power plants fueled by coal and nuclear power, maximizing use of the state's vast wind resources and reducing dependence on expensive natural gas, according to recommendations by a task force appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.
The report was issued Thursday by the Competitiveness Council, consisting of more than two dozen business, consumer and government representatives. It made 36 energy-related recommendations aimed at achieving "long-term sustained economic success." A public hearing on its conclusions is scheduled for Monday in Austin.
Texas is overpaying to lure major economic development projects, particularly wind farms, under a state law that allows school districts to grant tax breaks to recruit capital-intensive industries, a new study by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs concludes. Granting school property tax breaks has helped Texas attract manufacturing plants ...but the program "has increasingly been used to over-incentivize projects that create few or no jobs."
Robert Guptill had the wind blown out of his sails earlier this month when the City Council turned down his request for a specific use permit to allow a wind turbine on his property.
Guptill has tried for four years to get the council's approval for the project, which was rejected because of its height. At 43 feet, it's eight feet higher than the city ordinance allows.
"What people need to understand is that it's not just prairie chickens. It's really the inter-connectedness of these biotic communities," Boal said. "When we have indicators like a prairie chicken, and there's something going wrong, that's an indication of that biotic community as a whole. We need to think about, ‘what is the world we want to live in?'
Folks in several nearby towns, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas, are fighting to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to them. ...They say the companies are swooping in -- even into areas that aren't as windy -- because federal tax credits for wind developers expire at year's end unless Congress extends the subsidy.
Opponents also are holding meetings and erecting yard signs protesting turbines, disputing that wind energy works at all. ...They say that unreliability isn't worth sacrificing their scenic vistas and high property values.
Morris expressed to commissioners that she did not agree with giving a company a tax break. "Give the people of the county a tax break," Morris said.
The winds of change might soon be blowing in Hardeman County, and those winds might mean change in the pockets for farmers, ranchers and landowners in need of a little extra income.
CORPUS CHRISTI - A wind farm for Kenedy County was the focus of a crowded and somewhat heated debate Monday night. Wind power is described as 'clean and cost effective energy', but it's not without its concerns. The Coastal Bend Bays Foundation hosted a forum to allow company officials to meet with the public.
Roberta Campbell, whose property is along segment J of the preferred route, met with several other concerned landowners June 25 at the church. She scheduled the Thursday meeting as well.
"The goal is to form a coalition and hire an attorney to present evidence to the PUC," Campbell said.