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Wildorado the next big one in Texas -- Delayed but on the way

In Texas, where bigger is usually considered better, Cielo Wind Power's 161 MW Wildorado Wind Farm will stretch along seven miles of the state's panhandle and be among the first developments in the US to feature Siemens 2.3 MW turbines. "We had originally planned to get things going a little sooner," says Cielo's Walt Hornaday. "But we delayed it to get the right turbines for the project. Siemens is bringing proven technology from the European market and re-entering the US market."

German power technology giant Siemens bought Danish turbine maker Bonus Energy at the end of 2004, thereby entering the wind business as a wind turbine supplier. "The turbines, rotors and blades are all coming from Denmark," says Mike Revak of Siemens' Florida outpost. "We have a significant number of projects under development and commitments for our capacity through 2007-08. One of the key areas for Siemens is the US and Canadian market. That's where we're focused."

All of Wildorado's power is contracted for sale to Xcel of Minnesota. "This is our fourth project with Xcel," says Hornaday. "They're very active in Texas and right around 10% in renewables. I don't know of another utility that has done that much in Texas on a percentage basis and now they've reached a point where they're going to study how wind power interacts with their other generation before they go forward with more. But we've been adding wind pretty quickly here and utilities are starting to prove that they can put double-digit penetration in their portfolios, operate their systems well and save customers money while they're doing it."

Wildorado, expected online by March, will be managed and 99% owned by California's Edison Mission Group. The project, says Hornaday, is also Edison Mission's biggest to date. "Texans always like to talk about size and our claim is that this is the biggest project in the Southwest Power Pool region of the US," he adds. The pool serves parts of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Buffer zone

The Wildorado development has between 3000-4000 acres under lease from 20 ranch owners and will allow 40-50 acres for each turbine. "We could certainly fit more but our planning is for a buffer zone around the turbines," continues Hornaday. "We only expect to disturb about 80 acres and we're taking advantage of the opportunity of spreading out the turbines because we've got a nice, wide-open site on a typical flat Texas prairie about ten miles from the Canadian River."

Hornaday claims that Texas now has wind projects crisscrossing virtually all of its interstate highways. "There's no way a Texan can go anywhere in a car nowadays without seeing a wind turbine," he says. "And if you add up all the projects Cielo has done in Texas and New Mexico, it's a little more than 900 MW. All we need is one more big one and we'll be able to talk in terms of gigawatts."

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