About Air and Water

Friday, July 27, 2007

TXU, Shell plan Panhandle wind farm

By JIM FUQUAY - Fort Worth Star Telegram - Jul. 27, 2007
TXU Corp.’s generating subsidiary and Shell WindEnergy Inc. plan a huge Panhandle wind farm that could include the use of compressed air to generate electricity when there’s not the right amount of wind to spin the big turbines.

The 3,000-megawatt facility is slated for Briscoe County, southeast of Amarillo. That’s about the same size as the wind farm recently announced by Texas investor Boone Pickens, whose Mesa Power is seeking to install between 2,000 and 4,000 megawatts of wind power in four Panhandle counties.

The companies did not say when they expect to begin the project. They said they also plan to work together on other renewable energy projects in the state.

Greg Wortham, director of the West Texas Wind Energy Coalition in Sweetwater, said Briscoe County is “the platinum region” of wind resources. He said wind companies have been very active leasing land there “at higher bonuses than paid anywhere else.”

Wortham also said that to his knowledge, the Luminant-Shell project would be the first in the United States to use compressed air to generate electricity, although it has previously been used with other generating technologies. The idea is to use electricity generated in periods of low demand to pump air into underground storage, then use that pressurized air to drive turbines to generate electricity in times of high demand.

“The holy grail is to find a way to store wind energy,” he said, so that it can supply electricity on demand, just like power plants that rely on natural gas, coal or nuclear. On average, wind farms operate at peak capacity only about 30 percent of the time, and that drops to less than 10 percent during the hottest summer days in Texas, when wind drops but electricity demand surges.

Wind farms that supply a more constant stream of electricity also would help make the construction of high-voltage transmission lines more cost-effective, since the wires must be designed to carry a peak load whether it’s delivered or not. The Public Utility Commission last week recommended eight zones as the best routes for new transmission lines to serve Texas wind farms.
Read more in the Star Telegram

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