United States

United States

Beating the tax credit clock -- More than 200 MW up and 1500 MW building

Two-hundred megawatt of wind projects installed in the US since August have beaten the Production Tax Credit (PTC) clock, still set to punch out December 31, while more than 1500 MW is still going up. The 200 MW now running -- in Minnesota, California, Colorado, Iowa and Pennsylvania -- no longer has to worry whether Congress will extend the PTC, or whether it becomes a subsidy of the past.

Significantly, customer demand for green energy is driving a good proportion of the development so far. Nearly a quarter of the 200 MW built in the past three months, 42 MW, is directly tied to retail green power marketing programs in Minnesota and Colorado.

Wind plant developer and operator EnXco, was due to commission six Vestas 660 kW turbines at Great River Energy's Chandler Hills project in October. Their 4 MW output is to go to the Minnesota generation and transmission co-operative's Wellspring Wind Energy green marketing program, which has been oversubscribed since April. Also in October, EnXco completed the 27.9 MW Peetz wind farm in northeastern Colorado to supply power to giant utility Xcel Energy's existing green power program, Windsource. The owner of the 33 NEG Micon 900 kW turbines is Cinergy Global Power of Cincinnati, Ohio. The extra green juice for Windsource is in addition to the output from 15 Vestas 660 kW turbines added by Xcel to its Ponnequin wind farm in August to increase that project's size by 9.9 MW to nearly 30 MW.

The new wind in Colorado brings the Windsource stockpile to 57 MW, more than enough to erase its 2 MW backlog of subscribers. The 17,000 customers who subscribe to the program now use about 33 MW of wind power -- and Xcel estimates it will take only a year before new customers use up the 25 MW surplus. "We anticipate another year's worth of marketing efforts to sell the remaining Windsource power," says Xcel's Steve Roelstad. The utility, he says, uses a variety of methods to reach customers, ranging from bill inserts to door-to-door visits to commercial and industrial customers. Xcel also wholesales the program to local utilities throughout Colorado.

Its efforts, according to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), are paying off. In the latest ranking of green programs run by 85 utilities in 29 states, Xcel is second in number of participants and third in the amount of renewable energy generated as a result of demand. NREL says, 282 MW of renewables have come on-line in the US thanks to green power programs.

Green certificates

In California, Seawest last month completed construction of the 44.4 MW Mountain View Power Partners I and the 22.2 MW Mountain View Power Partners II projects near Palm Springs (Windpower Monthly, June 2001). Power from the projects, which utilise Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 600 kW turbines, is being sold to California's Department of Water Resources, but PG&E National Energy Group (NEG) is separating out the green attributes from the power and selling those as green certificates through its Purewind program.

Seawest released a request for bids in March 2000 to sell emissions credits from the projects as a way to help finance their construction. PG&E NEG bought not only the credits, however, but also the entire Mountain View project in a deal brokered in November 2000. Seawest, which will operate the wind farms, says the arrangement with PG&E NEG is evidence of a "successful new relationship."

The projects, the company adds, can help resolve energy problems in California. "These projects reinforce our continuing commitment to work with the state of California, through the California Energy Commission, to help resolve its energy needs in a clean, sustainable manner, and they will provide long-term solutions today by increasing California's long term energy supply," says Christian Engsted, Seawest's newly appointed president and chief executive officer. Engsted came to Seawest in August from ABB where he was president of ABB Industrial Products and ABB Service Inc.

At the top of iowa

Good weather enabled developers to complete the 80 MW Phase I of the Top of Iowa wind farm one month early and Steve Dryden of Midwest Renewable Energy (MRE) says he has already begun the second 80 MW phase. The project is near Iowa's first large-scale wind farm at Cerro Gordo in Worth County (Windpower Monthly, November 2000). Commercial operation of Phase I began in October after MRE and Zilkha Renewable Energy commissioned all 89 NEG Micon 900 kW turbines. Alliant Energy of Madison, Wisconsin is buying the output.

Zilkha is also joint developer, with Atlantic Renewable Energy, of 24 MW of Enron 1.5 MW turbines that make up the Mill Run and Somerset projects, commissioned last month in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. About 75% of the output is already contracted to a series of retail customers, including three universities and a supermarket chain. A Pennsylvania green power marketer, Community Energy, is selling the wind power to both commercial and residential customers.

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