One of the nation’s largest electricity utilities announced its first foray into wind generation Tuesday with the acquisition of Austin-based Tierra Energy.
Duke Energy Corp. said it has purchased more than 1,000 megawatts of wind projects being developed by Tierra, a small wind-energy outfit that employs six people in Austin. Duke acquired the company from Energy Investors Funds, which will retain two small natural-gas plants Tierra had owned. Tierra has no wind generation projects completed.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Tierra’s six employees now will work for Duke Energy Generation Services, an arm of the Charlotte, N.C.-based utility that manages more than 5,000 megawatts of independent generation nationwide.
“We’ll have an office in Austin where we’ll focus on wind energy,” said Wouter van Kempen, president of Duke’s generation services division.
The company expects to spend as much as $400 million by the end of 2008 on a trio of wind projects Tierra is close to completing.
Two of those are in West Texas, including the Notrees project near Odessa and the Ocotillo project near Big Spring.
“We intend to be a fairly significant player in the Texas wind market,” said David Marks, who was president of Tierra and will become a senior vice president in charge of Duke’s wind energy efforts.
Combined, the two Texas projects are expected to generate more than 360 megawatts of power. A third project in Wyoming is expected to produce about 60 megawatts, according to Tierra’s Web site.
The rest of the 1,000-plus megawatt wind portfolio also will be developed in the Western U.S., including more in Texas, Marks said.
Actual production for wind-generation facilities typically runs about a third of the stated capacity. One megawatt powers about 1,000 homes.
Overall, Duke owns more than 37,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity and supplies power to roughly 3.9 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio and Kentucky.
The company also owns independent power plants throughout the U.S. and Latin America, including several natural-gas plants in Texas.
Although its new wind-power initiative will represent only fraction of its generation, van Kempen said, it’s an area Duke – as well as other utilities – is looking to expand. Wind power is expected to grow from 13 gigawatts in 2006 to roughly 65 gigawatts in 2015, van Kempen said.
“It’s a tremendous growth rate,” van Kempen said. “We believe Duke and (Marks’) team can be a very significant part of that growth.”
By Dan Zehr
30 May 2007
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