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Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:00 am


About 40 people got updates on everything from wind power to 4-H Tuesday at Texas AgriLife Extension Service – Ector County’s annual luncheon.

Gary Vest, economic development director for the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, was supposed to talk about wind power as guest speaker at the event. But the big news he had involved solar power and the possibility of Spanish investors building an 80-megawatt solar farm in the area.

Vest said the economic development department was “very close” to signing a deal with Spanish investors that could land the solar facility in the area.

“It’s looking real good, but it’s not a done deal by any means,” he said.

A theme of Vest’s discussion on wind power was how the Permian Basin wouldn’t likely see much new development of wind farms until a transmission capacity project that will connect West Texas to the state’s metropolitan areas is completed in 2013. But he said the solar project would start much sooner because it would connect into the existing power grid.

The site that has been selected for the solar project has access to transmission lines that carry up to 340,000 volts of electricity, Vest said. He said he couldn’t say where the site was because it had yet to be purchased.

Once transmission capacity is increased, Ector County will see more wind development, Vest said. He said the recently opened Notrees Wind Farm could expand from 95 to 400 turbines.

Michael Clawson, who recently took over as county extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, gave the audience some of his ideas that he and wife Shawnte’ Clawson, the new extension agent for family and consumer sciences, have for the agency.

Among Michael Clawson’s plans are to spend more time building youth programs like 4-H by working with adult leaders.

He also looks to work with small acreage landowners, people who take part in agriculture but often have other jobs, to help them get off the ground.

“They bought their own little piece of earth,” Michael Clawson said. “They need some direction on how to make it more productive.”

Shawnte’ Clawson, who didn’t attend the meeting because she was in College Station for new employee training, will work on child safety seat programs as well as emerging issues with the H1N1 virus, as well as other family issues, Michael Clawson said.

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