Major utility snaps up emission credits -- SeaWest's new 44 MW plant sold

Interest in emissions derivatives from US wind projects has taken another major step forward. Last month, SeaWest WindPower Inc announced that PG&E Corporation's National Energy Group is buying SeaWest's planned 44.4 MW Mountain View wind project in California -- including the emissions credits. SeaWest issued a request for proposals inviting bids for the project and its credits in March (Windpower Monthly, April 2000).

Construction of the wind plant, near Palm Springs in southern California and to be finished in April using 74 Mitsubishi 600 kW turbines, was also to start in November. It is one of at least seven American wind farms that are throwing themselves into the rapidly growing US emissions credit market.

"It is a natural fit to add this emission-free, renewable energy resource to our western generation portfolio," says Thomas King, president and chief operating officer of the PG&E group's western region. "We are aggressively pursuing opportunities to supply new generation that will provide customers with the clean, reliable and affordable electricity they need."

An economic option

It appears, too, that the project will also be eligible for financial support under California's deregulation law. "We have no question about that," says Jan Paulin, SeaWest president and CEO. When a request for proposals for the project was issued in March, it had not been clear if selling emissions credits as well as receiving state support would be seen as "double-dipping" by state officials.

Paulin says the project is timely because of California's power shortage. "Wind power is an excellent solution for delivering clean renewable energy to California customers just in time for next summer's peak demand," he says. "Wind power is becoming increasingly cost competitive with fossil fuel power projects, without the externalities of fuel pricing volatility and greenhouse gas emissions."

In addition, SeaWest is selling green power offsets on two more smaller wind farms adjacent to Mountain View that total some 22 MW. The projects, almost finished last month, also use Mitsubishi 600 kW turbines. SeaWest's choice of Mitsubishi as supplier for all three Mountain View projects is partly influenced by the size of the Japanese company which adds inherent security to its warranty agreements -- an aspect of the deal which PG&E liked, says Paulin.

The same PG&E National Energy Group subsidiary involved in the 44.4 MW Mountain View project is also the developer and owner of an 11.5 MW wind farm in Madison County in New York State, from which it sells emissions credits on the Internet through its Pure Wind web site. Power is also sold to the regional grid (Windpower Monthly, October 2000).

Some of the emissions credits have already been sold, while some were still on the market in mid-November, according to Muir Davis, the subsidiary's director of strategy and new emissions. PG&E National Energy Group, based near Washington DC, is unregulated and owned by PG&E Corp, which also owns the San Francisco-based utility Pacific Gas & Electricity.

Emissions market grows

The private market in emissions trading is taking off in the US. Three other wind projects at least, all on the East Coast, are already selling green emissions credits or expect to do so. The Fenner wind project, a 12 MW wind plant in New York, also to break ground last month, will sell some green power attributes to a new laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

The project is being developed by Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp (AREC), which developed the Madison project before selling it to PG&E in mid-1999. Its emissions derivatives will be combined with those from a 6 MW wind project in Searsburg, Vermont, completed in 1996 by Green Mountain Power Corp, an investor-owned utility.

AREC is also marketing emissions credits for its planned 15.6 MW Mill Run project in Pennsylvania. The company, based in Washington DC and Virginia, issued a request for proposals for a turbine supplier in April. Mill Run is being built with developer and wind farm owner International Wind Corp of Dallas and the environmental group Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future.