Saturday, July 28, 2007

Capture the Wind

There's another Wind Farm coming to the Panhandle...

Huge wind farm in works

Two big players raised the stakes in the wind power game Friday.

Shell WindEnergy and Luminant, a subsidiary of TXU, announced an agreement to build 3,000 megawatts of wind generation in Briscoe County. The plan would top the world's largest wind farm near Abilene, which produces 735 megawatts.

A megawatt can power about 250 average homes.
The planners think the reception has been very positive.

"People love it in Briscoe County," said Jerry Leatherman, managing director of ACE Renewables, which has contracted with Shell to help develop the project. "It is typical of rural areas of the Panhandle where the water table has declined (reducing irrigation) and other things have drawn people away. It's been shrinking."

The impact could be substantial.

"You've got 900 square miles and 1,700 people," said Tim O'Leary, communications manager of Shell. "There will be an economic impact and demand on infrastructure. There will be an economic impact for decades."

Employment will increase, both for construction and during normal operations.
"It'll give a big bump during construction," said Mark Wilby, senior business development manager for Shell. "And after construction, on a project of 85 to 90 turbines, usually there are two to three full-time jobs and another four or five for maintenance. Conceivably this could be 1,500 turbines is one estimate."

The power from the project would significantly boost the wind energy Luminant's parent company, TXU, can deliver to customers. It currently buys 705 megawatts and has a contract to start buying another 209 megawatts.

"We're the largest purchaser of wind power in the state now," said Tom Kleckner, Luminant spokesman. "So actual ownership of generation is the next logical step."

The announcement came after a lot of action on the ground trying to catch the wind.
"It's been very interesting leasing rights," Leatherman said. "There has been a great deal of competition. I'd say eight different developers have been in here and left. It's been a challenge."
Nobody wanted to talk about project costs, number of acres leased or exact locations. However, the plan is to build the wind farm on top of the Caprock in the southeast sector of the county.
"It's not only on the rim or edge of the Cap, the wind is very good as you approach the rim for several miles," Leatherman said.

Everyone involved is waiting for the Texas Public Utilities Commission to issue a final order that will start the construction of transmission lines to get wind power to the metropolitan areas in the eastern part of the state, so time lines are not firm.

"PUC Chairman (Paul) Hudson has said he anticipates transmission could be completed by 2011/2012," Wilby said.

While other developers have proposed large projects - Boone Pickens touts a 4,000 megawatt project and Airtricity and partners propose a 2,235 megawatt project - the Shell/Luminant plan is different.

The twist is to use the turbines to also pump air into underground formations to compress it. The compressed air is then released to turn generators, producing power when the wind is not blowing or demand is too great for the wind to keep up with. The geologic situation below the surface looks promising.

"One of two formations have to be present - a salt dome or depleted aquifers, either gas or water," Wilby said. "The Panhandle is an ideal place for that."


Everywhere that I drive I see wind generators -- either generating electricity or parts on a truck headed down the highway. This part of the world is fast becoming the Wind Power Generation Capitol of the World.


bigwhitehat said...

Well, there is enough wind there to do it.

Kay Dennison said...

This is good!

Incognito said...

What happens when it stops being windy?

Panhandle Poet said...

Incognito: In our part of the world that would be the END. It never stops blowing!!!