Officials from the Pantex Plant, the National Nuclear Security Administration and Texas Tech University flipped the switch Tuesday on a new wind farm that will generate more than 60 percent of the nuclear weapons plant’s yearly energy needs.
Ten months after the plant broke ground on the project, the last of five windmills slowly began spinning as the U.S., Texas and Energy Department flags whipped in a stiff Texas Panhandle breeze.
The farm, located on 1,500 acres of government land east of Pantex, will consist of five 2.3 megawatt Siemens turbines that are expected to reap $2.8 million in annual energy savings.
“Any way we can reduce the cost of operations through energy savings is a win-win for us,” said NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz, a retired Air Force general who oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. “Every part of what we do comes through Pantex.”
Last year, the NNSA awarded a contract to Siemens Government Technologies Inc. to construct and operate the farm, the federal government’s largest. Under the contract, taxpayers won’t shell out any money for the project and government payments to the company come from the value of guaranteed energy savings generated from the farm.
Each year, the farm is expected to generate 47 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power nearly 3,500 homes.
Steve Erhart – manager of the NNSA Production Office, which oversees the Pantex Plant and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee – praised the many people involved in the project and said it represented the best efforts of American science, innovation and technology.
“The mission of the Department of Energy is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions,” he said. “At Pantex, we found the answer literally blowing in the wind.”
Judy Marks, CEO of Siemens Government Technologies, said the project was completed a few days ahead of schedule.
“This truly is a landmark project,” she said. “As the country’s largest energy consumer, federal agencies really are in a unique position to spearhead energy efficiency efforts and lead by example, which is what you do here, not only reducing energy waste and consumption but in reaping cost savings for taxpayers.”
The Pantex Renewable Energy Project is expected to remove 35,000 metric tons of yearly carbon dioxide emissions from the air, the equivalent of taking 7,200 cars off the road each year or planting 850,000 trees.
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