Highland New Wind Development cannot yet offer Highland County a site plan or specific plans on the proposed industrial wind facility because the company is still negotiating with potential investors for the project.
John Flora, lawyer for HNWD, provided an update to the Highland County Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday.
“Highland New Wind has been very busy the past two months,” Flora tod the board. “We first spent two days in Washington, D.C. at the airport talking to a variety of interested parties; we narrowed the field and then went to Houston where we further narrowed the field of investors, but then widened it a little bit and are still in conversation with a number of parties.
“So I am not here tonight to give you any detailed description of the project and to announce who we are going to be partnering with.”
The confidential negotiations with investors cannot be disclosed, but Flora told the board sufficient progress is being made to present details by the end of the summer.
“All I can say is that we are talking to folks from Europe, people on the West Coast and people in the East, and we are still working hard on narrowing the field and I am still pretty confident we will have something for you at your August meeting, but I said the last time I was here we hoped to have it tonight, and we don’t.”
The type of turbine that will be used for the facility is a factor for investors, and there is a limited number of turbines easily accessible for HNWD to purchase.
“Turbine availability is still one of the biggest issue we are dealing with – the environmental concerns are things that come up in some of the conversations – but I would say the biggest issue is the selection of the right turbine,” Flora said.
Flora said HNWD is not a major player in the windenergy facility business, and other investors have secured the majority of turbines.
The wind-energy market has seen a flurry of activity because of European interest, Flora added. The onshore wind facility resources in Europe have been tapped out and offshore wind projects cost three times more than onshore projects. Europeans have also determined the American political climate is favorable to alternative energy and have begun to search for opportunities in the U.S, he said.
“Quite frankly, according to the Europeans, we have the best wind resources in the world. Most of that is not here, most of it is in the Midwest,” Flora said. “You are going to see tremendous projects all the way from Texas to North Dakota, but they have to solve some transmission issues.”
The HNWD wind project is still attractive to investors because of the location’s proximity to energy consumers, he said. “The closer you are to the people who want the power, the better off you are,” Flora said.
Supervisor Robin Sullenberger said he receives inquiries about alternative energy resources from interested companies. Sullenberger asked Flora if the increased demand for turbines could continue and possibly hinder the selection process for HNWD.
“There might be some concern about you folks getting – with a smaller project – being sort of forced to accept a less efficient and older model unit that might not be the best circumstances,” Sullenberger said.
This would not be an issue because the oldest and smallest turbine, manufactured by General Electric at 1.5 megawatts, is still used effectively, Flora said. Turbines of two and a half megawatts are now available, and the wattage would determine the overall megawatt output.
If HNWD obtains 2.5-megawatt turbines, 15 would be used, with a total of 37.5 megawatts. If 1.5-megawatt turbines are used, 22 would be used with a total of 33 megawatts, Flora explained.
Because HNWD’s site plan is contingent upon the type of turbine and investment depends on a site plan, supervisor David Blanchard pressed Flora for a timeframe for a report. “A lot of these state and federal approvals hinge on developing that site plan. I guess what I am getting at is, is there any information that is available for the county to start reviewing?” Blanchard asked.
“We have done all of the preliminary engineering work we can do other than the actual turbine site itself, and as soon as we get that, we can present a site plan very quickly,” Flora replied.
The HNWD’s target date for the site plan is August or September.
By M. K. Luther
3 July 2008