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Tax credit deadline speeds development

American wind plant developers are preparing for a period of hectic activity as the federal Production Tax Credit moves into its last year. Between them California companies Enron and SeaWest say they will be installing over 500 MW of wind farms in the near future in nine separate projects, while the third major player, an affiliate of US energy giant FPL Group, is proceeding with a total of 105 MW in Texas, 25 MW in Oregon, and has plans to repower wind farms in both the Altamont Pass and Tehachapi in California.

The tax credit -- which adds one-and-a-half cents to the purchase price of each kilowatt hour of power from the wind -- is due to expire at the end of June 1999, if it is not extended.

Enron Wind Corp plans to install more than 400 MW in seven projects by early next year, including the 107 MW already under way at Lake Benton on Buffalo Ridge in Minnesota. The projects, all using the new Z-750 series wind turbine, were detailed by the company's Craig Christianson at last month's Windpower '98 conference.

Iowa and Nebraska

They include two at Storm Lake in northwestern Iowa, one with a generating capacity of 112 MW and the other with a capacity of 76 MW. The larger wind farm, to be located in Buena Vista County, will sell electricity to utility MidAmerican Energy Co. of Des Moines (Windpower Monthly, April 1997). Enron is awaiting state and federal regulatory approval for the deal. The 76 MW plant, also in northwest Iowa, will sell power to IES Utilities of Cedar Rapids.

A third and far smaller 2 MW project using Zond technology will be installed at Cedar Falls in Iowa under phase III of the Turbine Verification Program (TVP), run by the Electric Power Research Institute and the US Department of Energy. The utility involved is Cedar Falls Utilities. Also to be installed under TVP is the first utility scale wind project in the neighbouring state of Nebraska to the west. It will be a 1.5 MW project at a site named Springview for Nebraska Public Power District along with three other local utilities and two local towns.


The 107 MW phase of Enron's Lake Benton project in Minnesota, for utility Northern States Power, will be followed by another large project, 103.5 MW also near Lake Benton. A power purchase contract was signed for this project, on Buffalo Ridge, in April. And in Palm Springs, Enron's Cabazon project will be repowered with 40 MW of Zond turbines. Starting this summer, 53 of Zond's 48 metre turbines will be installed to replace about 100 old Dynergy and other out-moded turbines that have now been removed and sold for scrap.

Participants at Windpower '98 also heard that SeaWest Energy Systems of San Diego, one of the oldest wind companies, is busy on the installation front. The company's Dino Pionzio said a 37.5 MW wind plant in Palm Springs is to be repowered, most likely using Mitsubishis, and in the Altamont Pass SeaWest is planning to take out 432 turbines and replace them with 32 to 50 larger ones. Meantime, work is progressing on SeaWest's 40 MW of Mitsubishis going up at Foote Creek in Wyoming. The wind plant will be completed by October, said Pionzio.

The FPL Group, as well as proceeding with alarge wind development in Texas (Windpower Monthly, March 1998), has also bought up wind farms in the Altamont Pass consisting of 1517 turbines from bankrupt Kenetech Windpower. FPL is to repower it all, some 164 MW, with financial backing from Japanese trading company Nichimen Corp and turbines from Danish manufacturer NEG Micon (Windpower Monthly, January 1998).

FPL and NEG Micon are also behind plans to repower FloWind's wind farms in the Altamont Pass and Tehachapi, part of the reorganisation plan for Flowind submitted to a US Bankruptcy Court. They are intending to remove 169 turbines and instead install 53 new machines. FPL also has a 42 MW wind farm in Iowa on the cards for Interstate Power Company, again to be built using NEG Micon turbines (Windpower Monthly, April 1998). And last month it placed an order with Vestas for 25 MW of wind turbines for a site at Vansycle in Oregon (following story).

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