The face of the Rio Grande Valley has been changing over the past few years, and it’s likely to continue to do so: Between the forthcoming SpaceX facility near Brownsville and the development of UT-RGV into one of the jewels of the the UT system, the future is bright in the Valley.
The region has a lot of resources, but one that’s perhaps underestimated is one that it has in abundance: Wind. That’s something that Swedish furniture giant Ikea has recognized, as it picked Cameron County for the site of its newest wind farm. It’s the company’s largest commitment to renewable energy to date—something that Ikea has been known to invest in—according to a company press release.
The IKEA Group announced today that it has purchased its second wind farm in the United States from Apex Clean Energy: a 165-megawatt wind farm in Cameron County, Texas. This represents the single largest renewable energy investment made by the IKEA Group globally to date. The wind farm will contribute significantly to the IKEA Group 2020 goal of producing as much renewable energy as the total energy the company consumes globally. The Cameron Wind farm is expected to be fully operational in late 2015.
The terms of the deal haven’t been announced, so it’s unclear how much of the $1.9 billion the company is investing in solar and wind power in 2015 will be spent in Cameron County. But the facility, in combination with the previously-announced wind farm the company is building in Illinois, is expected to generate as many as 1,000 gigawatt hours of electricity (for perspective, Forbes reports that that’s enough to power 90,000 average American homes).
That’s good news for Ikea, and for the environment—it’s a solid PR strategy, at the very least, but it also is part of the sort of change in the Valley that might be shifting the region. While consumers in the Valley might be disappointed that Ikea is coming to the region to build a wind farm, rather than to open a store (the nearest Ikea location to McAllen is nearly five and a half hours away, in either Round Rock or Katy), the region might end up benefitting more from the sort of engineering jobs that operating one of the country’s largest wind farms creates, than from discount Swedish furniture. At the very least, becoming the sort of region that’s populated with wind engineers at the Ikea wind farm, rocket scientists at SpaceX, and doctors educated at the new UT-RGV medical school could help transform the Valley into the sort of region that’s very much on the radar of businesses looking to set up shop in the future.