NextEra Energy, the largest wind and solar renewable-energy power company in North America, will be development partner for the Hale Community Wind Energy project that encompasses 122,312 leased acres with more than 350 landowners in the eastern half of Hale County.
That’s the long-awaited news that Tom Carbone, president of project developer Tri Global Energy has been sharing in a series of landowner meetings.
“This project has drawn both state and national attention because of its size,” Carbone explained at a landowners’ meeting in August at the Museum of the Llano Estacado on the Wayland Baptist University campus.
“It’s the largest community sponsored wind farm development in the world, and when operating will be one of the largest wind energy projects in America,” added Mike Price, one of the local project managers. “And we are fortunate to have NextEra Energy onboard since they have the expertise and experience to make it happen. They are ready to build this project.”
Actual construction should begin in February or March, according to Price and Carbone, with the first turbines in operation by next summer. Phase I of the project is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving 2016.
Construction on the project actually started last December with excavation of four foundations, so that Hale Community Energy would qualify for appropriate federal tax credits. Since then, project managers and Tri Global representatives have been busy securing tax abatements from Hale County and Plainview, Petersburg, Abernathy and Hale Center school districts, the last of which have now received state approval. They also have finished compiling wind and environmental data.
“We have been able to validate that we have world-class wind resources,” Carbone explained. “No critical environmental issues have surfaced to date, and landowner and community support remains strong and positive.”
Tri Global is now working with Reliable Land Services, including Bob Brunson of Plainview, on final property title work and related landowner lease amendments.
A representative of NextEra attended the landowner meetings where Price and Carbone announced that the Hale Community Energy project was ready to move into the actual construction phase.
“NextEra is the ideal development partner for this project,” Carbone explained.
No announcement has been made concerning purchase power agreements for the power generated from Phase 1 of the project. The project’s energy production is expected to be used by municipalities, major corporations and/or electrical utilities.
Hale Community Energy is uniquely situated enabling it to supply energy to two major national power grids, the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). “It’s at an important crossroads for both power grids, and we have secured the necessary interconnects that can handle up to 800 megawatts of power,” Carbone said.
In addition to completing lease agreement amendments and securing power purchase agreements, which are expected to be completed by October or November, the remaining steps left before construction can start include micro-siting of the turbines themselves based on such factors as environmental impacts, cultural impacts, historic homes and other property and the location of substations, gathering systems and other infrastructure. “Those factors will determine the location and placement of roads in February and March as we start construction,” project leaders explained.
According to a Tri Global synopsis on the project, the initial project phase of an expected 300 MW will mean 120 to 160 short-term trade jobs during late 2015 and 2016. Long term, the initial project phase will require eight on-site technical service jobs, and 10 to 13 inducted jobs.
The project is envisioned to use a variety of 1.7, 1.79 and 2.0 MW GE turbines, some of which already have been purchased by NextEra, according to statements made during the landowner meetings.
“It took a while, but we finally got her done,” exclaimed Price. The project has been in the development stage for about seven years, and is expected to be in the construction phase for another two years.
Hale Community Energy, LLC, is joint venture comprised of Hale County Wind Farm, LLC (formed in March 2010), Cotton Wind Farms, LLC (formed in August 2009), Lakeview Wind Farm, LLC (formed in September 2009) and East Mound Renewable Energy Project, LLC (formed in October 2010), for which Tri Global Energy, LLC is project developer.
Price said the $7.3 million put into the project by participating landowners and local investors is the real secret behind the success of Hale Community Energy.
“Those funds were raised from the community, and have all gone into project development activities,” Price said. “It paid for erecting the meteorological towers, securing provable wind date, all the environmental studies, avian site control, project management fees and the $1.5 million required to secure the ERCOT and SPP interconnection agreements. Everything that we showed NextEra was up to date, and helped convince them to move forward. They were impressed that we had done all our homework and were ready to go, and that could not have happened without such broad-based landowner and community support.”
NextEra already operates the Red Canyon Wind Center in Bordon, Garza and Scurry counties, Blue Summit in Wilbarger County and Majestic I and II in Carson and Potter counties, and has more than 100 wind farms in 19 states and Canada.