A year after surpassing California as the nation’s leader in wind power capacity, Texas’ lead is solid and growing.

In 2006, the Lone Star state marked the second year in a row that it led the nation in wind power production. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Texas had 2,768 megawatts (MW) of wind power generating capacity installed at the end of 2006. California was 407 MWs behind at 2,361.

That represents a nearly tenfold increase in the difference between the two states. The year before, Texas outpaced California for the first time by 47 MW.

Texas regulators are doing their share to encourage more installed capacity. In July, the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted to designate eight areas as Competitive Renewable Energy Zones.

The ruling allows the state’s electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to take steps to expand transmission routes to connect new wind farms to the state’s power grid.

The PUC chose the eight zones after evaluating the wind power generating and transmission potential in more than two dozen areas throughout the state. Based on proposals from wind power developers, the agency projects the eight zones and their new transmission lines to accommodate more than 20,000 MW of new wind power generation.     EC