United States

United States

Furure resource mix set to include wind, but regulatory decision awaits while second project lacks funds

As wind energy leaders gather this month in Texas for the year's premier wind energy conference in the United States, Windpower '97, regulators are close to considering approval of a plan that would approximately lead to a doubling of the state's installed wind capacity, now standing at 41 MW. But a separate major proposal, also for 40 MW, remains delayed while the developer tries to find funding.

The 27th annual conference and exhibition of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), will be from June 15-18 in Austin, the state capital. Also in Austin, regulators from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are set to consider the integrated resource plan of Central and South West Services (CSW) on June 4. If the proposed resource mix is approved by the July 30 deadline the utility will issue a request for proposals for up to 75 MW of renewables, of which 40-50 MW would be wind.

Although a favourable outcome is expected, the result is nowhere near as certain as AWEA made it sound in a pre-conference publicity statement on May 6. "Texas' vast wind resource will continue to be developed through a 40 MW project planned by Texas Utilities and a new 75 MW project by CSW," said AWEA. But there is little indication that the long heralded Big Springs 40 MW is ready to go ahead, or that the entire 75 MW earmarked for renewables in CSW's yet-to-be-approved resource plan will be allocated to wind.

One big one

A single large wind farm is the most likely development if CSW's proposed resource mix is approved. It would provide power for the utility's green pricing plan, "Clear Choice," which is planned to give customers the option of paying a premium for 25%, 50% or 100% of their electricity from renewables sources (for details see pages 32-33).

CSW already operates one of the state's two wind farms, a 6 MW plant of Zond turbines in West Texas. The other wind farm, the 35 MW Van Horn wind plant in Culberson County, also in West Texas, sends power from the Kenetech turbines to the Lower Colorado River Authority. Some of the power from that project is also bought by the City of Austin.

The separate proposal for a 40 MW wind farm at Big Springs is for the utility Texas Utilities. The project has long been in the works and is way behind schedule. It, too, is to provide power to a green pricing scheme. The plant, proposed by New World Power, was to have consisted of German Enercon E-40 turbines and to have been on-line in the autumn of last year. It encountered problems after Kenetech sued Enercon and New World to halt importation or manufacture of the German design to the United States, claiming it infringed Kenetech's technology patents.

The lawsuit is unresolved, but Kenetech successfully got the turbines banned after an 18 month probe by the US International Trade Commission. Enercon pulled out and Vestas technology from Denmark was chosen instead. But the project is stalled. Texas Utilities officials say they have not heard anything regarding the proposal in some months. After researching the question, Jim Lawrence responded, "I understand New World Power is still trying to get financing for the project."

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