Hutchison Supports UH-Led Wind Turbine Alliance

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is throwing her support behind a University of Houston led consortium that could make Texas the home of a huge wind turbine testing facility. As Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports, the senator believes the Lone Star State, and more specifically the Texas Gulf Coast, would be the perfect spot for the research center.

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Imagine a facility that could test huge blades, some as long as a football field, wind turbines that could eventually end up providing nearly unlimited sources of renewable energy. The UH-led Texas consortium, called the Lone Star Wind Alliance, is one of two finalists, the other Massachusetts, for the Department of Energy research center. Hutchison says expanded renewable energy research is a must.

"It's a matter of economic security and national security that we look for the ways that we can have more energy and be creative at the same time and what better way to find those new sources of energy than to go to our great universities, to have the creative minds that are looking at our problems."

Hutchison's comments came during a visit to the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, which is leading the alliance's bid. She says win or lose, Texas should move ahead with abundant natural resources to make it a leader in renewable energy.

"Even if we don't happen to get this particular project, which is very big, I think we ought to go forward because we do have the capability. I think there is a lot that can be done because of our proximity and I'm very excited to be a part of it."

The Texas alliance includes the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech, Stanford and Montana State University. University of Houston College of Engineering dean Ray Flumerfelt says Texas and the turbine research center would be a natural fit.

"We have an energy industry here. We have the world offshore industry here. We are the largest producer of wind power now, more than California. Our offshore opportunities are immense in wind power, so we really have an opportunity to take our offshore and deliver into the Gulf of Mexico and really affect our economy."

Flumerfelt says the massive turbine blades have great potential when it comes to harnessing the power of the wind.

"Once we're able to test those blades we'll be able to design even better blades, blades that are lighter, that are more efficient, that can deliver more power. It's an absolute next step to make these things last longer, have them cheaper etc.. The beauty about wind is the fuel costs stay constant and it will be there forever."

The Texas consortium expects to submit its second phase proposal May 2nd, with the Department of Energy decision expected sometime this summer.

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