West Texas Wind Energy Spotlight: Made in Sweetwater

You might be surprised to learn that “the heart of wind energy” is beating in a small, West Texas town called Sweetwater. Read what Ken Becker, Executive Director for the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, has to say about the importance of wind energy in Sweetwater.

Professional photo of Ken Becker, Executive Director for the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development.

When did the wind energy industry start developing in Sweetwater?

Our wind market started in the late 1990’s with Trent/Mesa, the first wind project in the region.  We have since grown to 1,371 turbines (2060 MW) in Nolan County and an additional 1900 MW in the five counties surrounding Nolan County.

 

How has the wind energy industry impacted Sweetwater?

Sweetwater is a poster child for what a new, expanding industry can do for a community. Like many rural communities in America, we were struggling to find ways to keep our youth in Sweetwater.  Expansion in the wind industry has assisted us in taking that step.

 

What job opportunities has the wind energy industry provided Sweetwater’s youth?

Opportunities such as a wind technician, wind law, land man, and others have given our young adults a career to return to after college or through training at Texas State Technical College West Texas in Sweetwater.

 

What are some things that helped Sweetwater’s wind energy industry develop?

Like any new energy sector, it takes incentives to build up the industry to be able to stand on its own two feet.  That is what the Production Tax Credit has done, and needs to continue to do, for a new future. Incentives for renewable energy markets can be part of our nation’s recovery.

 

Would you recommend Sweetwater as a good destination for wind energy tourism? 

Absolutely.  In an area of Texas known for its raw materials, Sweetwater takes advantage of something that has been cussed and discussed for years …..wind! Sweetwater prides itself as a model example of how an industry and a community can work together for a better future. People interested in wind energy tourism would be missing out if they didn’t visit Sweetwater.

 

I could see people talking about the wind when talking about the weather but why would anybody cuss the wind?

Agriculture uses 97% of our land mass in Nolan County to grow cotton, feed stock, and raise cattle. Farmers sometimes cuss the wind because it can kill crops, carry moisture away, and dry out farming land. I’d say that what the wind industry has done for Sweetwater over the years has helped improve this, though.

 

To conclude, where can people go if they are interested in learning more about Sweetwater?

For those interested in doing business in Sweetwater, the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development site is the best place to start. We’re the “sweetest place in Texas for business” so the door is always open for anyone interested in learning more. For those interested in visiting Sweetwater, I would suggest taking a look at the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce site. You’d be surprised at how much there is to do and see in Sweetwater!