Energy company acquires Texas Panhandle wind farm

January 24th, 2014  |  Published in In the News, Press Releases, Articles, Top Stories

Energy company acquires Texas Panhandle wind farm

Posted: January 8, 2014 – 10:54pm

By Kevin Welch

kevin.welch@amarillo.com

EDF Renewable Energy, the U.S. subsidiary of a French company, announced Wednesday its purchase of a fourth wind farm in the Texas Panhandle.

The firm’s newest acquisition is Spinning Spur 3, to be built west of the first two Spinning Spur wind farms that run west from Vega in Oldham County, all purchased from Austin-based Cielo Wind Power.

The three Spinning Spurs will sell electricity to different companies.

The first is selling to Southwestern Public Service in a 15-year agreement. The second has no purchase agreement and will sell on the spot market on the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas grid downstate when the wind farm is complete in May or June, said Sandi Briner, an EDF spokeswoman.

Tech giant Google paid $200 million to buy an undisclosed share of Spinning Spur 1 last year.

The newest wind farm will sell to two municipal utilities downstate. Georgetown Utility Systems, near Austin, and Garland Power & Light, near Dallas, through long-term purchase agreements with EDF.

Sales to utilities serving the state’s metropolitan areas has been made possible by the recent completion of high-voltage transmission lines by Cross Texas Transmission and Sharyland Utilities. Access to those markets is driving most wind development in the region.

“This is a project that wouldn’t have happened without those lines going to areas with more population,” said Walt Hornaday, chairman and president of Cielo. “That’s a transaction we couldn’t have done.”

The turbines of Spinning Spur 3 will be on 18,000 acres and stretch from Adrian to the edge of the Caprock where Interstate 40 drops west toward New Mexico. The project will have a maximum production capacity of 194 megawatts.

Standard performance of a wind farm sees production at about 25 to 30 percent, said Ken Starcher, associate director for training, education and outreach at West Texas A&M University’s Alternative Energy Institute. Oldham County wind farms have performed at about 50 percent of capacity.

The companies didn’t release financial terms, but industry estimates place the construction cost around $388 million.

Cielo developed all three projects and is helping with the oversight of the construction of Spinning Spur 2.

“On Spinning Spur 3, they have us under contract for 2014 to work on the project and we’re hopeful we’ll keep working on it in 2015,” Hornaday said.

The wind farm should be in operation by the end of 2015, according to a news release.

The other EDF wind project will be southeast of Hereford in Deaf Smith County developed by Lincoln Renewable Energy and purchased by EDF last year.

Hornaday credits a receptive attitude in Oldham County for the five wind farms his company has developed there. The projects have gotten tax abatements and still produced enough income to lower taxes.

“The reason we’re out there is Oldham County commissioners and the schools,” Hornaday said. “Property taxes outstrip any other operating expenses.”

County Judge Don Allred was out of town and couldn’t be reached for comment.