The recently completed 161 MW Wildorado Wind Ranch may be the last huge project in the windy Texas panhandle unless a transmission upgrade comes down the line. Unlike much of the state, the northernmost panhandle connects to the Southwest Power Pool's regulated market. The rest of Texas is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) unregulated market. "In the Southwest Power Pool area, the regulations on transmission tighten up the marketplace," says Walt Hornaday of Cielo Wind Power, which co-developed Wildorado with Edison Mission Group. "It's going to be smaller projects picking and choosing small areas where you've got small buyers for electricity." Wildorado, using 70 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, has a power purchase agreement with Xcel and covers 16,000 acres near Amarillo, Texas, a city of 150,000 residents. "I call it a suburb project," Hornaday says. "It's only 15 miles out of town and it's nice that we're getting exposure to a population centre instead of these projects hidden away in remote areas in the middle of nowhere." Close proximity to the load centre requires little in the way of transmission lines -- a major part of the reason the sprawling project was built. In addition to the Texas panhandle, the Southwest Power Pool serves parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. "The market is growing at a smaller rate, so maybe two or three hundred megawatt a year out of the Southwest Power Pool combined is more realistic," Hornaday says. "If you look at ERCOT you might see two or three thousand megawatt a year going in."
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