North America’s largest wind and solar energy provider, NextEra Energy Resources, is expected to begin construction on the first phase of the Hale Wind Energy, LLC, project in either late January or early February 2017.
Daryl Hart, NextEra’s director of wind development, told Hale County commissioners Monday that NextEra is ready to build the massive wind project and plans to operate it for the next 30-35 years, with a real possibility of extending that for another 30 years.
“We’re planning for at least a 30-year investment, and are looking at staying around for another 30 years after that,” he added.
Hart was jointed at Monday’s meeting by Wes Jackson, representing Cummings Westlake LLC, which on behalf of NextEra filed an application to transfer the project’s existing tax abatement contracts from Tri-Global to NextEra. Commissioners are expected to act on that application, which doesn’t change any financial terms of the pact, at their work and regular sessions on April 22 and 25.
As the project’s late-stage developer, NextEra took over the project from Tri-Global last summer. Since that time, Hart said, NextEra has negotiating purchase power agreements so it could lock in specific customers instead of selling energy on the open market once the turbines are operational.
“We expect to have negotiations completed on at least half of that energy in the next two to three months,” he said. “Once we have those contracts, we’ll be ready to start construction.” Surveyors are now on site and the only remaining permit to be secured is from the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
According to Hart, NextEra is working to secure purchase power contracts for 200-250 megawatts, with total capacity for Phase 1 up to 478 megawatts. “Construction will start in the first quarter of 2017 and it will be fully operational nine months later, in Q4 of 2017.”
That initial phase will be located wholly within the Petersburg ISD. “At the end of the day, we plan three or four phases with a total capacity of 800 megawatts,” he added. Other school districts that will benefit with tax revenues from the overall project will be Plainview, Hale Center and Abernathy ISDs, he noted.
Jackson added that once construction is complete, Phase 1 will add about 16 permanent jobs. “There won’t be a lot of strain on resources once it’s operating, and the entire county will benefit from higher tax revenue and royalty payments.”
Hart said a minimum of 100 wind turbines will be constructed in Hale County next year. “We’re using GE turbines, which are the Cadillac of the industry,” he said. “While most turbines last 30 years, we anticipate getting 35 years out of these. After that, we’ll tear them down and restore the land to its original condition, or repower them by building an even better site. That’s what is happening now in California, where older turbines that had an efficiency of about 22 percent are being replaced by new turbines that have an efficiency of 55 percent, which means they are producing energy 55 percent of the time. Just five or 10 years ago, the best we could expect was 35 percent efficiency.”
He praised the work done by Tri-Global and its local partners in Hale Community Wind LLC. “It was a grassroots effort that put this project together and took it as far as they could go,” he told commissioners. “We’re ready to take it on to construction and full operation.”
In other action Monday, commissioners:
–Hired Benito Garcia as Ollie Liner Center manager, effective April 11. He succeeds Lynn Barton who is retiring. Garcia has been a maintenance employee at Cotton Center ISD.
–Approved current accounts payable of $340,772.
–Authorized the county Finance Committee, including Commissioner Mario Martinez, County Treasurer Ida Tyler and County Auditor Maretta Smithson, to investigate bond options to finance between $1 million and $1.3 million toward business park development and boosting the county’s rural development fund.
–Instructed the jail maintenance committee, including Commissioners Kenny Kernell and Benny Cantwell and Sheriff David Mull, to contact the Texas Jail Standards Commission for a facilities study.
–Approved the hiring of three detention officers at the county jail, Aaron Montgomery and Paula Vasquez, effective April 4, and Kevin Evans, effective April 5.
–Tabled action on certifying TxDOT’s current county road inventory which shows 1,325 miles.
–Tabled designating an infection control officer for the county.