City council approves lease for potential wind farm

February 26, 2010

By: Jenna Hiller
News 8 Austin

The Austin City Council approved $1.5 million over the next 30 years to lease more than 4,664 acres of land in Pecos County, Texas.

The site could eventually house a wind farm to generate energy for Austin.

For several years, the GreenChoice program has allowed customers to subscribe to a renewable energy option through Austin Energy.

Green energy makes up 11 to 12 percent of Austin Energy’s total generation right now.

Karl Rabago is the Vice President of Distributed Energy Services for Austin Energy. He said the city has set a goal to reach 30 percent green energy use in Austin.

"We’re moving on beyond volunteers, and we’re adding renewable energy to the mix for all customers, and we’re doing it at a time when wind is the most cost effective option that we have in front of us," Rabago said.

The city currently has contracts to buy wind power, but now it is looking to own wind farms.

The city council took the first step toward a farm in December 2008 when they approved the easement of 17,500 acres in Pecos County.

The easement approved this Thursday gives the city a total of about 22,000 acres, which is enough to build a wind farm.

"This is the first step you do. You try to secure rights to the land. If it works out, all the factors hold true, eventually you add the wind farm," Rabago said.

The wind farm couldn’t happen until at least 2013, because the transmission lines to get wind energy aren’t in place yet.

"We’re waiting, because those wires are not built yet, but its part of the plan, and that’s why we think this is a good location," Rabago said.

The city says even if the site works out, the wind farm in West Texas would only be a small step towards the 30 percent renewable energy goal.

Before Austin Energy could start building a wind farm on the land, the issue would have to go back to council with cost estimates.

If the city decides not to build on the site in Pecos County, the lease can be broken at any time. However, if the lease is broken, the city would take a loss on the money already invested in the project.

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