Blue Summit Wind Farm, north of Vernon, with 80 wind turbines

As wind energy puts a new face on energy in West Texas, wind power generated electricity is charging the economies of several small towns and bringing new faces onto the scene – mostly construction workers, some with families.

Along U.S. 287 and several routes, tall transmission-line towers are going into place. New substations near Kirkland, between Quanah and Childress, and also at Crowell are part of the bustle. And at Blue Summit Wind Farm, north of Vernon, more than 80 wind turbines are now standing tall, poised to catch the wind with their three-blade assemblies.

In Childress, Crowell, Quanah, Chillicothe and Vernon – plus other small towns to the south and west and into  the Panhandle- t he construction worker newcomers are drawing notice. Unlike the stranger who pushes through the swinging doors of a dusty saloon to a dubious welcome, the new breed of stranger is getting a warm welcome.

“I’ve noticed a lot of people around town I don’t know,” said Carrie Hawkins, executive director of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce.

Seizing the opportunity to promote local businesses to a new market, the chamber is distributing coupons to workers at the wind farm. In Quanah, Paula Wilson, city administrator, sees news faces and sees new water connections – alwaysasuresignofap opulation upswing.

“It helps the Quanah economy on the whole,” she said. “These people are bringing their families with them. I don’t think we’re going to have a lot of kids in school, maybefive or six. It might increase a little bit.”

But in a small town, even a half-dozen new kids makesad ifference.

Dale Eaton, postal clerk and Quanah’s mayor pro tem, has his finger on a similar pulse, saying he’s noticed new mail deliveries to previously vacant rental houses.

In Childress, at Dawson’s Family Restaurant, Charlie Medelline, manager, likes to think the restaurant has a home-away-from-home appeal to the transient workers.

“It’s really home-cooked food,” he said.

Medelline has noted that the workers come and go in batches as the phases of construction change.

“As crews changed, we get a resurgence of business from whatever they’re working on,” he said.

Source: Wichita Falls Times Record News
Just a block away, Raymond Love operates Love’s RV Park. He and his son Richard, his partner in the business, recently expanded their park.

“We just run out of spaces here, so we thought we’d add some new spaces,” Raymond Love said. “Next year they may not be around here. It looks pretty good for right now.”

Norma Trolinder owns Ole Towne Cotton Gin RV Park at Goodlett, west of Quanah and only about 10 miles from the new substation still under construction at Kirkland. She is renting spaces to construction workers and, like Raymond Love, knows it won’t last.

“In three years, they’ll be gone,” Trolinder said, explaining why she’s keeping nearly all her pull-through spaces vacant for the travelers she serves.

But she is glad to have the long-term temporaries, and she is aware of the boon to the area economy. “What really helps, a lot of these people travel with their families,” she said.

And when they’re gone? They’ll leave behind more than electrical substations, transmission lines and wind turbines. Wind-generated electricity will help Texasmeet its growing need for energy – hopefully in an increasinglye fficientw aya sb etter ways are devised to store electricity produced at the whim of the wind for times when demand is at its highest.

If most of the electricity goes to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the outflow of current doesn’t mean places like Wilbarger County won’t reap other benefits from the wind turbines.

Bobby Crews, a Vernon bank president with four decades in the banking business, is as focused on long-term benefits to the economy as on the

“The income benefit to the landowners, these are long-term recurring revenues,” Crews said, noting that the income from the wind generators should extend to the next generation of landowners as well as the current lessors.

“I think it is going to be a big boon for Wilbarger County,” he said, referring to Blue Summit Wind Farm and noting that the addition of the turbines will increase the local tax base. Sean Stockard, chief executive officer of the Vernon Business Development Corporation, was equally upbeat. Pinning much of his hope on the renewal of tax credits to foster wind energy development, Stockard said he would like to see Next Era Energy Resources, the wind farm owner, take Blue Summit into Phase II and Phase III, expansions that could put more wind turbines on the horizon to as far away as the Childress area.

Whether the subsequent phases happen, the wind farm will mean employment for wind energy technicians trained to keep the huge turbines operational. Already, Clarendon College is teaching courses in wind technology at its campus in Childress. Vernon College could offer similar course, Stockard said.