Federal officials are accepting proposals from private energy companies to run a first-of-its-kind wind farm expected to independently power Pantex Plant.
The Pantex wind farm, a first at a National Nuclear Security Administration facility, will include five 3-megawatt turbines on 1,500 acres of government-owned property east of the plant. The turbines are expected to stand 426 feet high, and construction is expected to begin in the fall with a completion date of summer 2013, according to a Pantex newsletter.
Proposals are due Sept. 6. The winning bidder is expected to operate and maintain the wind farm under a 25-year contract with the government.
For nearly three years, federal officials at Pantex have worked to clear the way to build the wind farm at the Carson County weapons facility 17 miles northeast of Amarillo.
The government-owned wind farm is part of a federal effort to meet the nuclear agency’s renewable energy targets.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires at least 7.5 percent of a federal agency’s annual electricity consumption come from renewable sources by fiscal year 2013, which starts Oct. 1.
In fiscal year 2010, the plant spent $2.7 million on electricity usage from Xcel Energy and uses about 7 megawatts of energy daily, according to federal data. Bidders must commit to producing at least 10 megawatts a day, a federal proposal said.
The most recent government estimate pegs the plant’s anticipated energy cost savings near $2.5 million annually.
The nuclear agency will move forward with the wind farm through an energy savings contract, which allows federal agencies to initiate projects without up-front capital costs from the federal government.
Instead, the contract likely will include a $25-million investment by the winning bidder, said Johhnie Guelker, an assistant manager at the plant.
The plan stalled last year while the Federal Aviation Administration worked to approve the proposed sites of the wind turbines, which would likely sit about 20 miles from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. In the past few months, the agency cleared five spots in the proposed area where the turbines would not interfere with flights.
Through the contract, Texas Tech University said it hopes to foster one of the nation’s largest wind research initiatives and lay the foundation for a significant research and development relationship with the federal government.
“Texas Tech wants the research wind farm to generate sufficient revenue to be self-sustaining and to fund a significant research effort for Texas Tech and its collaborators,” a 2009 memo between Pantex and Texas Tech said.
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