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Big oil invests in Nevada wind -- Texas billions

BP Capital, a company controlled by Texas oil billionaire Boone Pickens, has signed on with Global Renewable Energy Partners, a wind development subsidiary of Danish wind turbine maker NEG Micon, to form a partnership known as Power Star. It will develop two Nevada wind projects: the long planned $100 million, 85 MW Nevada (nuclear) Test Site (NTS) project and a similarly priced 90 MW project at Table Mountain near Primm, Nevada.

Power Star hopes to complete both by July 2003 and says it could expand the NTS site capacity to 265 MW by 2005. Both projects will use NEG Micon 1.5 MW units. The NTS site is five miles from the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility, where the US government plans to store spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. It also sits on the 3497 square kilometre site where America's first nuclear weapons were tested (Windpower Monthly, December 2001).

Confident

Although Nevada Power signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the output of both plants, the utility is currently faced with financial difficulties caused by a regulatory decision that cut a proposed increase in its electricity rates to consumers by about half. Approval for the PPA is pending and now before the Public Utility Commission, but BP Capital's Jim Nairne is confident the deal will hold.

Tim Carlson of the Nuclear Test Site Development Corporation (NTSDC) says the two projects are not likely to be the last proposed in Nevada. One reason is the state's renewables portfolio standard, adopted last year, which requires both utilities and large customers to obtain a proportion of their power from renewable energy resources.

Shell, another oil producer, entered the US wind power market last year when its subsidiary Shell Windenergy Inc partnered with developer SeaWest Windpower to build the 50 MW Rock River 1 project in Wyoming.

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