One of the biggest challenges renewable energy has to overcome has less to do with science than with politics: It can be difficult to get regulatory approval to build the new transmission infrastructure necessary to carry power from the rural areas where it's generated to the cities where it's consumed. So it's very encouraging to see that regulators in Texas have approved plans to build a new $4.9 billion transmission project, which is critical if Texas is to become the wind-energy mecca that T. Boone Pickens envisions.
Brad had the definitive story back in November looking at the promise turning Texas into a wind powerhouse. But there's one specific way, ironically, in which Texas's lack of a well-established environmental movement may help here. A major obstacle to renewable energy development in greener states like California is that environmentalists, who have more political power there than they do in Texas, are often opposed to the construction of new energy infrastructure and transmission lines, since it can interfere with efforts at land conservation and species protection. They've succeeded in delaying such projects, frustrating advocates of renewable energy like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has remarked, "If you can't put solar panels in the Mojave Desert, where the hell can you put them?" In Texas, it's easier for energy companies to get what they want--which can be quite useful once big business puts its political weight behind green energy. It also doesn't hurt that Texas has its own electricity grid, so FERC doesn't have to get involved when new transmission lines are proposed.