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Construction of Willacy County wind farm to start soon

RAYMONDVILLE – Construction of 171 wind turbines to generate 400 megawatts of electricity in Willacy County will begin in late January or early February, a Duke Energy spokesman said.

As many as 300 people will be hired, said Milton R. Howard, Duke Energy vice president for wind development. A job fair will be scheduled sometime in January, he said.

“We’re going to hire as many local people as we can,” he said. “That will include laborers and small businesses.”

Earth-moving equipment and mobile homes to be used as offices and quarters for security guards have been moved to a site at Farm-to-Market Road 507 and FM 1801 during the past few weeks.

Construction should be complete by December, Howard said. There will be 84 Mitsubishi 2.4-megawatt turbines and 87 Siemens 2.7-megawatt turbines.

Although the generators will be bought overseas, Duke Energy will purchase some items in the Rio Grande Valley, such as steel rebar and concrete, as well as many smaller miscellaneous items and services that can be obtained as needed locally, Howard said.

Details about “micro-siting” of the windmill towers are still being worked out, he said. “In January, the ‘footprint’ (exact location of each windmill tower) will be set,” he said of the giant towers.

Power lines will be located underground until they reach existing high-tension power lines owned by American Electric Power Co., Howard said. The AEP lines, in turn, will convey the windmill-generated power to an AEP substation near Rio Hondo.

Many more details of the huge project will be announced in coming weeks, Howard said.