San Angelo Standard-Times – Wide-open land a windfall to West Texas

August 2nd, 2007  |  Published in Articles

The Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado trekked through West Texas in 1541 seeking seven cities of gold.

Mostly, he found heat, thirst, dust and privation.

In Coronado’s tracks, developers today are putting the final touches on a wind-energy project valued at more than $200 million.

These are the new wildcatters — smart, bold, driven, opportunistic. Like previous innovators seeking bonanzas of oil or gas, today’s wildcatters see unlimited potential blowing in West Texas’ endless wind supply.

The rush of investors — including several from Europe — testifies to the state’s ideal conditions culminating in high technology, optimum winds, willing landowners, heavy consumption demand, a favorable regulatory climate and low interest rates.

The West Texas Wind Energy Consortium, headquartered in Sweetwater, reports Invenergy is preparing to deploy the world’s largest commercial turbines in Camp Springs, 10 miles east of Snyder in Scurry County. Invenergy’s project is rated at 130.5 megawatts.

A thousand kilowatts equal a megawatt; 1,000 megawatts equal a giga-watt.

Also at Camp Springs, the Snyder Wind Project will feature 21 3-MW turbines, which dwarf a 24-MW California project that was touted as state-of-the-art.

Scurry County also is home to the 160-MW Brazos Project and the 84-MW Red Canyon project, both near Fluvanna.

Invenergy’s Camp Springs Energy Center features 87 1.5-MW turbines capable of producing almost 500 million kilowatt-hours a year — enough to power roughly 45,000 homes. The Invenergy site is moving toward full commercial operation.

Both Camp Springs projects are interconnected in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates Texas’ electrical grid.

At the beginning of 2007, roughly 2,750 MW of wind-generated electricity was operational in West Texas. By comparison, Canada had roughly 1,000 MW in production.

ERCOT projects that West Texas will have 4,850 MW operational by the end of 2007 — a 76-percent increase in one year. At that rate, Texas will be erecting turbines this year that propel the state past the 5 giga-watt threshold — a year behind India but three years ahead of China.

Texas, already producing one-fourth of the nation’s wind-generated electricity, leads the United States in the production of wind power.

The 161-MW Wildorado Wind Ranch™ features 70 Siemens 2.3-MW turbines in Oldham County, which is in the Panhandle’s northwestern corner.

Wildorado has been a joint development of Austin’s Cielo Wind Power LP and Edison Mission Group of California.

This project is interconnected within the Southwest Power Pool, and the output is sold to Excel Energy subsidiary Southwestern Public Service.

Wildorado is the largest project in Edison Mission’s almost 500 MW of U.S. wind energy operations.

The company’s second-largest wind investment is the 120-MW San Juan Mesa project in New Mexico.

Other operational Panhandle projects include White Deer (160 MW) in Carson County and various John Deere Wind projects in Hansford County (110 MW). Hansford County also hosts an operational prototype of the 3-MW Vestas V90, a type of turbine.

The 63-MW Snyder project will be operated by Enel North America. Enel is the third-largest utility in Europe and the largest in Italy. Enel bought the project in late 2006 from the German firm Windkraftnord.

Enel expects to have the Snyder project operational this year. Preliminary site work is under way.

The West Texas Wind Consortium contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 2007 Standard-Times