Wind farms to provide economic boost in Willacy County

The winds of change have things moving quickly in a wind farm project in Willacy County.

Last year, Duke Energy announced plans to build a large-scale renewable energy system in Raymondville that will generate 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to power roughly 120,000 homes.

Now, construction is set to begin later in the month on a 30,000-acre facility said Milton Howard, Duke Energy vice president.

The nature of the wind here is on peak, said Howard. Meaning the wind blows at 8 it shuts down at 6 at night. So people are using power as the wind is blowing.

The farm is on FM 507 and FM 1018.

Howard says there will be 171 finished wind mills by the end of December.

Then they will be testing and completing the plant for commercial operation by December of 2012, said Howard.

The Duke Energy wind power project, roughly 20 miles inland from the gulf say wind energy will help create around 300 jobs and bring needed money into our area.

Wind farms have come under criticism for reportedly posing a threat to the environment, to migratory birds and for purchasing turbines in other countries.

Duke, a company based in North Carolina, said although generators will be purchased overseas, many items will be bought right here in the Rio Grande Valley such as steel and concrete.

They said they've collected wind data at the site for several years before proceeding with an environmental analysis.

There's no emission into the air, said Howard. There's no escalation as far as fuel price, other types of generation such as gas or coal have escalators.

Power lines will be located underground until they reach existing high tension power lines owned by AEP, where the power generated by the windmills will be carried to a substation near Rio Hondo to feed valley needs.

A job fair for Duke Energy will take place January 18th. They will be advertising in local papers soon.