Elida wind farm has smooth sailing

By Tony Parra

The Elida Wind Power Plant operators are completing their first month since flipping the switch sending electricity from the plant to homes in eastern New Mexico, west Texas, Oklahoma and southern Kansas.

Wind farm operators have been using the Roosevelt and Chavez county winds to generate electricity for the homes of Xcel Energy customers.

“We’re glad to begin receiving output from San Juan Mesa project,” Bill Crenshaw, Xcel Energy corporate communications manager, said. “It helps us reduce our dependency on natural gas and coal.”

Crenshaw said that customer conservation along with competition between wind, natural gas and coal to provide the energy helps keep the price down. Crenshaw said the coal energy for Xcel energy comes from Muleshoe, Texas and natural gas comes from the San Juan Permian basin in New Mexico, to name a few of the sources.

Crenshaw said the completion of a 160-megawatt wind farm near Amarillo in 2006 will increase Xcel’s use of wind energy to 10 percent.

The Edison Mission Group Inc. acquired the wind project from Padoma Windpower out of La Jolla, Calif. and Edison Mission are the operators of the plant, according to Charley Parnell, spokesperson for Edison Mission.

“We’re extremely excited about the San Juan Mesa Project as part of our goal to develop 1,200 mega-watts of wind energy by 2009,” Parnell said. “This is a significant step for us in renewable energy.”

Parnell said Edison Mission Group has wind power plants in Minnesota, Iowa and recently signed an agreement for a power plant in Chicago and Maine.

Construction began in May of 2005 and the project was put into commercial operation on Dec. 23, according to a press release from Edison Mission Group Inc.

Parnell said Edison Mission Group members helped with the completion of the construction in December, also.
Electricity produced by the project will be sold to Southwestern Public Service, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Crenshaw said tax-credit supported wind energy has been sponsored by state and federal governments.

“Improvements in wind turbine technology since we had our first experimental demonstration in 1992 near Amarillo has allowed us to integrate wind energy into our grid,” Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw said wind-turbine technology has improved the efficiency of wind energy generation so that it can compete with coal and natural gas.

The 120-megawatt wind-powered facility will provide enough power for the average annual needs of about 41,600 homes, said Gary L. Gibson, Xcel Energy state vice president. The wind farm has 120 Mitsubishi wind turbines and Dave Hayward, field engineer of the wind farm project construction, said Mitsubishi workers help with the maintenance of the turbines.

The $160 million San Juan Mesa wind power plant project is driven through Industrial Revenue Bonds paid through private funding.