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Big springs project revicded in Texas

Publicly traded energy company York Research Corporation is to design, build and operate a $50 million wind plant in Big Springs in western Texas. Construction of the 34.6 MW project, a revival of a defunct proposal put forward by renewable energy developer New World Power, is to start in the spring at a site on a ridgetop in the Lone Star state's oil rich Permian Basin.

The wind project, to consist of Vestas V-47 and V-66 turbines from Denmark, is to be completed late in 1998, says York Research of New York. As well as developing energy projects, the company also markets electricity and natural gas in the north eastern US and Canada through a subsidiary named North American Energy Conservation Inc.

Project financing will be used for the wind plant, the first to be developed by York in the US or Canada "It expands York's presence beyond the north eastern United States energy markets and confirms our commitment towards producing environmentally clean energy," says the company's CEO Robert Beningson. Development of the wind farm will be carried out by York Windpower Corp of Montreal, Quebec, a wholly owned Canadian subsidiary of the company. Parent York Research Corporation will own and operate the project.

In July York announced an exclusive agreement for a major wind energy power system at Djungar Gate, Kazakhstan in Central Asia (Windpower Monthly, August 1997). The first 50 MW will be completed in late 1998 or early 1999 with increases planned until a total of at least 500 MW is operating. It would then be the world's largest wind plant.

For the Texas plant, 42 of the V-47 turbines, rated at 660 kW, will be installed alongside four V-66 machines, which are rated at 1.65 MW apiece. It will be the first time that the V-66, the world's largest commercially produced turbine, has been installed anywhere in North America. The V-47 is a modified Vestas V-42, with a longer rotor diameter and different blade profile.

Texas Utilities Electric of Dallas (TU) will buy power from the project for 15 years, says the utility. The price paid for the wind power for the first year will be $0.0414/kWh, says the utility's Carol Peters. The price then rises some 3% a year through the term of the contract, meaning an average price of electricity of "just over" $0.05/kWh, she says.

High hopes

The go-ahead, announced a month ago, comes four years after TU first said it was considering renewables under its Integrated Resource Planning process. "We're really hopeful that this project will be completed," says Peters. The original proposal for a wind farm at Big Springs for TU was to consist of German Enercon turbines installed and operated by New World Power Corp in a joint venture with Dominian Bridge Corp of Montreal. York Research subsequently acquired the Big Springs 15 year power purchase agreement for an undisclosed sum, according to David Ward, president of York Windpower in Montreal.

Enercon technology was abandoned when it became the target of a controversial "exclusion order" issued by the US International Trade Commission in Washington DC. The order was prompted by Kenetech Windpower, which had claimed that Enercon's variable speed technology infringed its US patent. Although an administrative law judge agreed with Kenetech's complaint, the wind company has since sought bankruptcy protection.

Ironically, Ward, when previously working for Kenetech, negotiated the power purchase contracts for Canada's largest wind farm at Cowley Ridge. For a third company he will now be developing a project his previous employer stopped in its tracks.

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