Per press release, edited slightly:
Mesa Power LLP, a company created by T. Boone Pickens, has placed an order with General Electric to purchase 667, 1.5 megawatt wind turbines for the worlds largest wind farm, capable of generating 1,000 megawatts, nameplate, of electricity, enough to power more than 300,000 average U.S. homes. The order is part of the $2 billion first phase, see previous post, of the Pampa Wind Project planned in the Texas panhandle by Mesa.
When all the phases of the project are completed it will become the world's largest wind energy project, with more than 4,000 megawatts, nameplate, of installed capacity. When completed, projected to be in 2014, the wind farm will be five times as big as the nation's current largest wind power project, now producing 736 megawatts.
Pickens said he expects that first phase of the project will cost about $2 billion. When complete, the Pampa Wind Project will cover some 400,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle.
Pickens envisions that large scale renewable energy projects like his Pampa Wind Project will permit the United States to become less dependent on foreign oil. Large scale renewable energy projects such as this are difficult to execute because they rely upon the Federal Production Tax Credit, which provides incentives for development of renewable energy. However, large scale renewable energy projects require commitments years in advance, while Congress has only extended the Production Tax Credit one or two years at a time.
Mesa Power is hopeful that the Pampa Wind Project will qualify for the Federal Production Tax Credits in 2010 and 2011 when the project will begin commercial operations. "I believe that Congress will recognize that it is critical not only to this project, but to renewable energy in this country, that they enact a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credits," Pickens said.
"You find an oilfield, it peaks and starts declining, and you've got to find another one to replace it," said Pickens, who once operated one of the largest independent oil and gas production companies. "It can drive you crazy. With wind, there's no decline curve."
An Austin-based Resource Inc. economic impact study, commissioned by Mesa Power, projects that the Mesa Power wind farm will bring significant increases in jobs and income for the five counties of the project investment zone (Carson, Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler counties).
The study forecast the project would generate an estimated 1,500 jobs during the construction phase, and 720 during a typical year of the operation phase; personal income in the project investment zone will rise by $68.7 million per year during the construction phase, and $120 million during the operation phase. The more significant impact during the operation phase is largely due to lease payments to be made to landowners in the project area amounting to $65.3 million per year.
Resource Economics estimates that the total value of economic output in the region due to the project will be $380 million per year during the construction phase and $1.6 billion per year during the operation period, and additions to the tax rolls of school districts in the project investment zone will amount to $2.4 billion by 2018, assuming the school districts approve an application to limit appraisal values during the project's first 10 years.
Lots of news about big wind projects lately. Pickens claim that the project is dependent on Federal Production Tax Credits is disappointing. It is too bad that wind power is not commercially viable without subsidies on a project of this size. Others have claimed that it is competitive with natural gas power plants, I suppose that is dependent on the cost of power where the plant is built. Pickens said “I believe that Congress will recognize that it is critical not only to this project, but to renewable energy in this country, that they enact a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credits." The WSJ commented ". . . state-level incentives, such as laws requiring utilities to purchase clean energy, are bolstering growth in the sector."
Too avoid some comments, it must be remembered that with wind power, most of the news uses the nameplate or nominal capacity, the power produced when the wind is blowing at some stated value, rather than the actual power that is produced. The actual production is 25% to 35% of the nameplate capacity because the wind does not blow hard enough, all of the time. This means that wind power especially, and to nearly the same extent solar power, must be backed up by some other generation means, unless it is tied into an extensive grid that uses geographical distribution, over a large region or even nationally, or combined with energy storage, to compensate for the intermittency of wind and solar power. Solar has the advantage of being fairly predictable as to when the sun will shine. Without backup power, energy storage or geographical diversity, it is usually estimated that sun and wind power can only be used for 20% to 30% of total power requirements. Tidal or wave power have some advantages that I will not go into here because their use is very dependent of favorable geographical conditions. Progress is being made on energy storage, but it is not quite ready for prime time. I support using hot dry rock, HDR, geothermal power as baseline power to reduce the expense of interconnecting transmission lines, which will always be required to some extent.