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Panhandle wind energy leader says 'goodbye'

Published: May. 30, 2015 at 2:20 AM CDT|Updated: May. 30, 2015 at 3:16 PM CDT
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Amarillo, TX - Class 4 winds is closing its doors after opening the the wind industry to the panhandle.

Seven years ago, Class 4 Winds formed to tell the world's wind energy community that the Panhandle is open for business. At that time, there were only three wind farms in our area. Today there are 17 and the organization says their mission is complete.

"There is 1,200 megawatts of installed capacity due to the efforts of Class 4 Winds and all the groups that they are associated with. That is an investment of around $2.8 billion," said Class 4 Winds committee member Ken Starcher.

The group started from scratch back in 2008 by hosting town hall meetings and workshops. "We'd invite windy landowners in and tell them the possibilities and the problems that wind energy could bring to their area," said Starcher. "With that, we also tried to deal with the developers to make sure they understood the concerns of the landowners and get the two to meet."

The group advocated for wind development on behalf of the Panhandle and provided education, communication and synergy between the region and the wind industry.

Now seven years later, Class 4 Winds no longer has an acting director and funding from founding members has dried up. "It just made sense that this was probably the right time to say that all our goals are pretty much met," explained Starcher. "We're in a really good shape now that people all over the Panhandle are well aware of the potential problems and possibilities for renewable energy. Now let's keep developing."

Starcher believes they created a strong enough foundation for wind energy in the Panhandle that growth will continue without them. "The wind will still keep blowing and it will keep growing. The wind energy potential here due to the electric lines that have already been built and could be added on to will double in the next five years. It takes federal support, it takes the local community wanting to have it and it takes the ability of landowners and developers to still make an agreement, but it will continue here in the Panhandle."

Starcher said the executive committee will stay in contact in case there is ever a need for the group to reform in the future.

Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10