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Samsung turbines find Texas home

The first three 2.5 MW wind turbines from Samsung Heavy Industries are to be shipped from Korea to the US and installed at a project in Lubbock, Texas, that its independent developer, Cielo Wind Power, describes as ideal for proving a wind turbine's mettle.

"The Texas Panhandle is notorious for having a very energetic wind resource," says Cielo's Walter Hornaday. "It's one of the windiest areas of all in the US. So it's a good place to not baby your equipment."

The Lubbock Wind Ranch will give the Korean industrial giant a good idea of how its turbine could perform throughout America's windy Midwestern corridor, he says. The corridor has been earmarked by oil man T. Boone Pickens for 200 GW of wind generation from Texas to Canada.

Hornaday says his arrangement with Samsung is a win-win scenario. "It's hard to get quality equipment on a small project," he says, noting that established turbine manufacturers often shy away from small orders in the belief they do not justify the transaction costs. Under the terms of the agreement, the Lubbock project allows Samsung to put its new machine through rigorous testing while keeping overhead costs for both supplier and customer low.

Samsung's turbine is unique and a "breakthrough type of design," according to Hornaday, providing Cielo with critical experience in the performance of permanent magnet generators (main story). "It can do a lot of gymnastics," he says. "It has a lot of capabilities to manage voltage and frequency and other issues that a transmission distribution utility has to deal with. It's a capable machine."

Lubbock Wind Ranch, planned for full commissioning in 2011, also offers the benefit of an agreement with neighbouring Texas Tech University to help with research on the Samsung turbines, says Hornaday. The arrangement is part of Texas Tech's growing focus on wind energy.

"It's hard to find talented capacity that has time to work on a small project," says Hornaday, explaining that Samsung will pay for the research work. The wind project is to be built inside the Lubbock city limits and linked to the municipal utility's grid. It has a power purchase agreement through 2023.

Whether the turbine's high technology translates into low operation costs remains to be seen. "As far as durability and reliability, that's more of an execution issue," says Hornaday. But he has high hopes. "Having a big company like Samsung working on it, our expectations are high there as well."

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