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Wind Wire: Nuclear wind

Wind power is coming to a nuclear weapons repository in the Texas Panhandle through a $28 million slice of the US Department of Energy's $9.9 billion budget for 2009.

The project at the Pantex plant near Amarillo will be built in three phases, peaking at about 80 MW, beginning with a first phase of 10 to 12 MW that could be up and running by next spring. "For a government project it's moving at light speed," says Johnnie Guelker of Pantex. A request for proposals is due by October with a developer coming onboard shortly after. Turbines are expected to come from either GE Energy or Siemens. Much of the project will be built on a vast tract of government land that serves as a security buffer zone surrounding the nuclear plant. Some of the turbines will be on land owned by nearby Texas Tech University, which plans to use the project as part of its Wind Science and Engineering Research Center curriculum. The second and third phases are likely to be funded at least in part through additional government money built into future budgets. The project's first phase could pay for itself within about a dozen years but, ultimately, Pantex plans to share half ownership of the 80 MW with a developer and sell excess power to generate revenue. The Pantex plant consumes roughly 10 MW at any given time, Guelker says. "There's a lot of enthusiasm within the department for the project," he says. "And if it saves us $2.5 million a year on our electric bill, then we're pretty excited about that."

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