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BIG SPRINGS WIND PLANT APPROVED, Texas Green Pricint made Possible

The Texas Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved Dallas utility TU Electric's contract with New World Power Corp for the long planned 40 MW Big Springs wind farm. Power generated by the plant is likely to be sold to consumers under a green pricing scheme being launched by TU Electric.

Texas regulators have given the go-ahead to the long planned 40 MW Big Springs wind farm -- and power generated by the plant is likely to be sold to consumers under a green pricing scheme being launched by Dallas utility, TU Electric.

The unanimous vote by the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving TU Electric's contract with the wind plant's developer, New World Power Corp, was given on February 22. The plant will be the first in the US to use wind turbines from German company Enercon. Meantime, TU Electric is seeking to be allowed to pass on the extra cost of buying power from third parties -- such as from Big Springs -- to consumers in their monthly utility bill. The electricity from the Big Springs plant will cost $0.04/kWh, says TU's Kathi Miller. The utility is also seeking permission to pass on the costs of encouraging energy efficiency.

The green pricing scheme is to start mid-year when 5.7 million consumers in Texas will be given the option of paying extra for electricity from clean sources. "Although the cost of wind energy is becoming more competitive, energy from renewable resources continues to be more costly than from conventional plants for most applications," explains TU executive vice president Tom Baker.

Customers will be offered the chance to contribute voluntarily to a "ReNew Energy Fund" in the hope of raising $1 million a year for new renewable projects using technologies such as wind or solar, says Miller. They will also be able to choose the amount they contribute and whether it is a one-off or regular payment.

The Texas PUC had decided earlier in February to consider the Big Springs project on a fast track or accelerated basis, says TU's Jim Lawrence. The power purchase contract approved on February 22 is to run for 15 years.

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