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Texas seething with even more activity -- Further announcements

It's like a Texas oil rush, except that this time it is clean power. In the last few weeks, almost 200 MW of wind projects have been announced in addition to the 470 MW publicly presented in the Lone Star state since the start of the summer. Including projects in planning but not yet made official, some 750 MW of wind power is on the way to construction in Texas (Windpower Monthly, October 2000).

The American utilities TXU of Dallas and American Electric Power (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, have now announced plans for their 130 MW Trent Mesa wind farm near Abilene in Sweetwater County in West Texas. Ground was to be broken on the project, long rumoured as being on the way, last month. Also last month, the municipal utility Austin Energy said it will be buying 76.7 MW from FPL Energy's huge King Mountain project, being developed by British company Renewable Energy Systems. Previously Austin Energy was to take just 20 MW from the project, but the city council amended the contract in late October.

Austin Energy's wind will come from 59, 1.3 MW turbines from Danish company Vestas, the technology supplier for King Mountain. The utility says it expects to meet 53% of its expected load growth between now and 2003 from renewables and efficiency. Its Greenchoice electricity program was completely sold out within ten months of being launched.

Green cheaper than brown

Greenchoice customers will actually be paying $0.005/kWh less than those who opt for the standard fuel mix because they do not also pay a fuel surcharge. Austin, the Texas state capital, is the second fastest growing US city after Las Vegas. Power for Greenchoice will begin to flow next year from 40 MW in wind and landfill methane projects.

TXU will start buying clean power -- at least 515 million kWh yearly for at least a decade -- from the Trent Mesa project in August. Eighty-seven 1.5 MW turbines will be installed, say the utilities. The vendor had not been announced as of November 22. TXU now has contracts to buy nearly 361.5 MW in wind power from four Texan projects (Windpower Monthly, October 2000). This includes most of the power from the existing Big Spring 41 MW plant.

AEP, a leading wholesaler marketer and trader merged recently with Central and Southwest (CSW), a utility long involved in Texan wind. AEP also owns two utilities in the state, Central Power and Light and West Texas Utilities. Three months ago it formed an innovative partnership with the Lower Colorado River Authority to build 150 miles of high-345 kV voltage power line to help take the power from the new West Texas wind farms to centres of population.

Exceeding the mandate

The Texas rush has been catalysed by the state's Renewables Portfolio Standard legislation which mandates 2000 MW of wind power by 2009, facilitated by a market for sale of wind's green credits to top up the market price for which the electricity is sold. Wind projects like Trent Mesa are being built under this market framework.

"Under the Texas deregulation law, this places TXU Electric & Gas at almost twice the amount of renewable energy initially required under the new state of Texas legislative mandates," comments TXU executive Steve Philley, who launched the project.

"We believe that wind power has become more commercially viable in today's market," adds AEP vice president Dwayne Hart. "We see exciting opportunities in North America as natural gas prices continue to remain volatile."

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