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Spending cuts threaten short list, SMUD wind bids

A wind and a wind-hybrid project are on a shortlist of proposals by California's Sacramento Municipal Utility District. But the utility says it could end up dropping wind from its 50 MW renewables plan as not all of the plan may go ahead.

Two wind projects are on a shortlist of proposals just announced by California's Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). But the utility says it could end up dropping wind from its 50 MW renewables plan as not all of the plan may go ahead. A more competitive business strategy is being discussed in the face of cost cutting and deregulation of the electricity market. SMUD became the first utility in the US to own a wind plant when it built a 5 MW Kenetech plant in Solano County.

A wind and a wind-hybrid project are among the 12 shortlisted following SMUD's solicitation for 40 MW of renewables technology. Flowind is proposing 20 MW for an existing wind site in Alameda County and Energy Unlimited, with an address in Boise, Idaho, and Asia Power of Wellington, New Zealand are bidding with a 20 MW wind-hydro project in Sacramento County. Others on the shortlist, announced on December 4, were for biomass, geothermal, hydro and a PV/solar system.

The 40 MW open solicitation was issued in March last year along with a PV-only solicitation for 10 MW. Forty-nine proposals for a total of 510 MW were received by the July deadline, including seven wind proposals for a total of 135 MW. Bids were selected based mainly on cost, but also in terms of how many local jobs they would create, the merit of their technology, the equal opportunity business content of their programme and their potential environmental benefit.

The PV shortlist includes two especially interesting bids for inverters. One is a bid for an inverter factory by Trace Technologies, oddly enough described by SMUD on December 4 as "formerly the Kenetech Power Processing Company, the power electronics division of Kenetech." Yet a bid by Trace to buy Kenetech's power electronics assets was only approved by the US Bankruptcy Court the next day. Another shortlisted PV bid, for assembly of inverters, is by Trace Engineering.

But despite the shortlist announcement, SMUD is considering scaling back its renewables plans, laid out in its 1995 Integrated Resource Plan, along with other proposed cuts. A recommended $3.7 million annually for five years would fund only the 10 MW of PV, says Bob Wichert, supervisor of SMUD's advanced renewables technology group. The 1995 plan for renewables would cost $4.7 million yearly.

Wichert stresses the recommendation must be adopted by the SMUD board of directors and is being discussed at five public meetings from mid December through February. "If there is enough community interest (in renewables), the general manager could change her recommendation," he says. Wichert expects a final decision in March or April.

l Energy Unlimited's SMUD bid is one of two wind projects the developer is apparently pursuing, though it has not been active in wind for a while. Reportedly it is to build a 20 MW wind-solar plant near Las Vegas in the Solar Enterprise Zone. The project would have 18.5 MW of wind and 1.5 MW of photovoltaics.

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