Wind turbines will join oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas coast under a new plan to build the first U.S. offshore wind energy farm, the state announced on Monday.

Officials expect the proposed $300 million project in Texas should go more smoothly than plans for a wind farm proposed off the Massachusetts shore. That project has been delayed by local residents with yachts and shorefront homes, including U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite.

“This is Texas. We don’t have Walter Cronkite and Ted Kennedy whining about their back yards,” State General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson told Reuters.

The $300 million Texas project, to be built by Wind Energy Systems Technologies LLC (WEST LLC), will generate 150 megawatts of electricity at a 11,355-acre site about seven miles off the coast of Galveston Island in southeast Texas.

That would generate enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes, according to the Texas General Land Office, which leased the land to WEST LLC.

Texas’ history with energy will help overcome hurdles such as those that have stalled a similar project proposed off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Patterson said.

Residents have fought the proposed Massachusetts wind farm, complaining that the turbines, which can rise more than 100 yards (meters) above the water, would spoil the ocean views from their shorefront estates.

WEST LLC’s unit Galveston-Offshore Wind LLC will begin the project with construction of two meteorological towers to gather data to determine where best to build the 50-60 wind turbine towers, which may take up to five years to erect.

The turbines, which will rise about 260 feet above sea level, and their 55-foot (17 meter) blades may not always be visible from the shore, Patterson said.

Texas’ coast is dotted with oil and gas production platforms, but the state must continue to develop new energy sources, Patterson said.

“We’re going to be out of oil and gas at some point,” he said.

Texas, which lags only California in total wind power production, must develop 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025 to meet targets set by the state legislature.

Current wind power generating capacity in the state is about 2,000 megawatts, with most of the wind turbines located in the western part of the state.

By Matt Daily

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