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As oil and gas wane, Texas wind industry ascends

August 10, 2020
Seth Feaster and Karl Cates and Brent Israelsen
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Key Findings

Three broad forces are driving the expansion of wind power nationally and in Texas, which presents a business model that can be replicated elsewhere: rising corporate demand; growing investor interest; strong bipartisan political support.

Texas is the wind-savviest state in the nation, and its growing number of wind farms are widely and correctly perceived as good investments, job creators, tax-base solidifiers, and engines of economic growth.

Executive Summary

Beyond its industry overview and its Texas-specific outlook, this report details how the wind industry has lifted one community, Nolan County, which sits at the edge of the Permian Basin, and serves as a prime example of how a renewables-based energy economy brings predictable benefits that the boom-and-bust oil-and-gas business cannot.

Tax revenues in Nolan County have increased, driven significantly by the wind industry, which makes up 6 of the top 10, and 11 of the top 20 property taxpayers today.

  • More jobs and higher wages have come to the county, where the unemployment rate was 3.1% in January 2020 and where wind-energy workers are paid on par with oilfield employees.
  • Economic diversification has been a direct byproduct, as can be seen in the county seat of Sweetwater, which has drawn a range of wind-energy offshoot service businesses and where Texas State Technical College now graduates 50 to 75 wind technicians per year.
  • A knock-on utility-scale solar industry is emerging as a companion business to windfarms.

Seth Feaster

Seth Feaster is an Energy Data Analyst whose work focuses on the coal industry and the U.S. power sector.

Before joining IEEFA, he created visual presentations at the New York Times for 25 years with a focus on complex financial and energy data; he also worked at The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

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Karl Cates

Former IEEFA Transition Policy Analyst Karl Cates has been an editor for Bloomberg LP, an editor for the New York Times, and a consultant to the Treasury Department-sanctioned community development financial institution (CDFI) industry.

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Brent Israelsen

Brent Israelsen is a guest contributor at IEEFA.

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