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US wind capacity hits 100 gigawatts; Texas is No. 1 wind state

Houston Chronicle | December 10, 2019

The nation has reached a new milestone with 100 gigawatts of installed wind energy capacity, with more than half of that installed in just the past seven years, according to the Department of Energy.

The nation has reached a milestone of 100 gigawatts of installed wind energy capacity, with more than half of that installed in the past seven years, according to the Department of Energy.  One gigawatt provides enough power for about 700,000 homes.

Texas has the most installed wind capacity of any state at nearly 27 gigawatts, according to the Energy Department. The next closest state is Iowa with nearly 9 gigawatts of wind energy capacity…

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Houston home to more than 30 wind-energy companies

Houston Chronicle | December 9, 2019

The Houston area has more than 30 companies involved in the wind energy industry, including wind farm developers, manufacturers of lubricants for wind turbine bolts, blade inspection and maintenance, coatings for wind turbines and lighting for wind farms, according to data tabulated by the Greater Houston Partnership.

The Houston area has more than 30 companies involved in the wind energy industry, including wind farm developers, manufacturers of lubricants for wind turbine bolts, blade inspection and maintenance, coatings for wind turbines and lighting for wind farms, according to data tabulated by the Greater Houston Partnership.

Texas is the nation’s biggest wind energy generator, producing nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs…

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Bain: Wind power is something special for Oldham County

Amarillo Globe-News | November 30, 2019

Here in Oldham County, we are proud of our Route 66 heritage, right down to our county slogan, “When you’re here, you’re halfway there!”

But if you’ve driven through our county recently, you may have noticed more than acres of ranches and farms – wind turbines are now dotting our wide-open landscape. And not by any sort of accident – The wind farms in our area, Wildorado Wind Ranch and Spinning Spur Wind Farm, have brought well-paying jobs, income for our ranchers and farmers, and economic growth to our small corner of West Texas.

Most importantly, the economic growth these wind farms bring is helping us preserve our proud ranching heritage for generations to come. We have a proud cowboy history in Oldham County – with the likes of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett once traversing the land. But as many know, new highways and harsh weather can make it tough to just get by.

But thanks to these wind farms, our county has seen a significant boost to our economy, and has kept many of our ranchers in business. When a wind turbine is put on a landowners property, they have an agreement to receive a payment, which has typically amounted to $20,000 a year per turbine for the landowner. By 2016, the 381 turbines installed in Oldham County had produced over $7.5 million in income for our landowners. This number has certainly increased as more wind turbines have been installed in the years since.

Both Wildorado and Spinning Spur have invested in our rural community by developing long-term economic engines that will benefit us for years to come. The estimated overall tax revenue that Oldham County will receive from these projects is upwards of $300 million.

Beyond spurring the economy, they are also producing a great amount of power for our region and state – the Spinning Spur 3 wind farm has the capability to power over 58,000 homes in Texas. Wildorado can power 56,000 homes. All just from continuing to leverage the free resource that Oldham County has to offer.

The wind industry has been a blessing for our special corner of West Texas, and we’d recommend keeping an eye on our slice of Route 66 for an opportunity to celebrate wind with us.

Keila Bain is director of the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce.

Apex Executes Second PPA with Facebook for VA Solar Project

Solar Industry Mag | November 25, 2019

Apex Clean Energy says Facebook has signed a power purchase agreement for a 61.6 MW portion of the Altavista Solar development, which is set to become operational in Campbell County, Va., next year.

The deal, which will help support Facebook’s operations in Virginia, is Apex’s second major transaction with the tech company this year. In August, Facebook signed a 200 MW PPA with Aviator Wind East, which will be part of the largest single-phase, single-site wind project in the U.S. once it begins operations in Coke County, Texas, in 2020.

“Facebook is a clear leader in driving the transition to a new energy economy and working to lay the foundation for other companies, large and small, to achieve significant carbon reduction goals with cost-competitive renewable energy,” says Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy. “We’re thrilled to once again partner with Facebook at Altavista Solar, expanding Apex’s track record of fulfilling corporate clean energy demand as the private sector escalates its efforts to decarbonize the grid.”

At 80 MW, the overall Altavista Solar project will be Apex’s largest solar project to date and the company’s first renewable energy facility on the East Coast.

Altavista Solar will generate approximately 200 full-time jobs during construction and over $1.8 million in local tax revenue over the project’s 35-year lifetime.

Apple Starts Construction Of New $1 Billion Austin Campus

RTT News | November 20, 2019

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Apple Inc. (AAPL) said Wednesday that it has started construction of its new $1 billion, 3-million-square-foot campus in Austin, Texas. The announcement comes amid President Donald Trump is scheduled to tour the company’s manufacturing facility in Austin later on today.

The campus will initially employ 5,000 people, with the capacity to grow to 15,000 employees, and is expected to open in 2022.

Apple currently employs about 7,000 employees in Austin.

The company stated that, at a production facility just a short distance away, it is preparing to ship the all-new Mac Pro to customers starting in December. The new Austin campus will run on 100 percent renewable energy, including solar power generated on site.

Apple said it continues its expansion in Boulder, Culver City, New York, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle.

Coke County residents celebrate new wind energy source at blade signing ceremony

Fox West Texas | November 15, 2019

Aviator Wind joined Facebook and McDonald’s to host a blade signing event to celebrate a new wind facility in Coke County.

COKE COUNTY, Texas — Aviator Wind started construction October in Coke County on the largest single-phase, single-site wind facility in the United States. Apex Clean Energy teamed up with Facebook and McDonald’s to bring the new million-dollar energy source to West Texas.

“McDonald’s and Facebook have both signed power purchase agreement in support of this project. To make sure that this project comes to fruition,” Faith Tyler, Apex Clean Energy, said.

The wind plant will bring $39 million to Coke County in the next 25 years, along with numerous employment opportunities.

“Over the life of the project over 100 million will be invested in Coke County in Robert Lee, Water Valley ISD and landowners as well,” Tyler said.

Coke County residents were invited to the event to celebrate the 525 megawatt project.

“Coke County had a excellence wind resource and available transmission in the area and also high community support from the ISD, local officials, and our land owners,” Tyler said.

According to Tyler, Texas is the largest supporter of wind energy in the nation and continues to lead the way in clean energy.

“The revenue is important for this community, but also to accelerate to the shift to clean energy in the united states is very important,” Tyler said.

Clorox signs virtual PPA with Enel Green Power to meet renewable goals

Solar Power World | November 13, 2019

The Clorox Company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Enel Green Power North America announced the signing of a 12-year, 70-MW virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) for the purchase of renewable energy beginning in 2021. Representing about half of Clorox’s 100% renewable electricity goal in its operations in the U.S. and Canada, this agreement is expected to help Clorox accelerate achieving its goal in 2021, four years ahead of the company’s original plan.

“Climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions pose a real threat to the health of our planet and ultimately the long-term well-being of people globally. That’s why we’ve taken action for more than 10 years to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of our operations,” said Benno Dorer, chair and CEO of The Clorox Company. “Our agreement with Enel helps to expand U.S. renewable energy infrastructure, reflecting our view that companies like Clorox play an important role in addressing global climate change. We believe this agreement will significantly contribute toward Clorox achieving our goal of 100% renewable electricity in our operations in the U.S. and Canada in 2021, four years earlier than originally planned. Our commitment to climate stewardship is an important pillar of our new IGNITE strategy and part of our overall efforts to drive Good Growth — growth that’s profitable, sustainable and responsible.”

The 70-MW VPPA between Clorox and Enel Green Power North America for the purchase of renewable energy delivered to the grid is for the second phase of Enel’s Roadrunner solar project to be built in Texas. Roadrunner is a 497-MWDC solar project that is being built in two phases. The first phase, currently under construction, comprises around 252 MWDC and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, while the remaining 245 MWDC of capacity is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

“We are proud to support Clorox on their path toward 100% renewable electricity in its operations in the U.S. and Canada by helping them achieve about half their goal through this agreement,” said Georgios Papadimitriou, head of Enel Green Power North America. “This agreement with Clorox reinforces the continued significance of renewable energy as a fundamental part of any company’s sustainability strategy.”

Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services advised Clorox on this power purchase agreement and supported the company in its project selection, analysis, negotiations and deal execution.

White Mesa Wind Finds Major Corporate Offtakers

North American WindPower | November 6, 2019

Apple, eBay, Samsung and Sprint have inked a joint agreement to purchase 75 MW of power from Apex Clean Energy’s 500 MW White Mesa Wind project, which is expected to come online in 2021 in Crockett County, Texas.

Shared energy purchases such as this allow companies to pool their energy demands and collectively support the addition of large-scale renewable energy projects to the grid. Apple brought eBay, Samsung and Sprint into the aggregation agreement, enabling all participants to access renewable energy from the new project.

3Degrees facilitated the agreement.

“We’re proud to be powering all of Apple’s operations around the world with 100 percent renewable energy and driving the private sector to support the clean energy transition,” says Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “Businesses of all sizes and of varying energy needs can help bring new, renewable energy online. This collaborative agreement in Texas is a model we hope others will replicate.”

“Enabling corporate aggregation for renewable power purchasing is a key focus of Apex’s and an essential way of engaging more corporate customers in clean energy procurement,” adds Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy. “The Apex platform is designed to develop utility-scale wind and solar projects that deliver optimized performance paired with the flexibility that aggregated offtakers need to make these deals feasible. White Mesa Wind is a prime example of the future of corporate clean energy transactions: aggregated power purchasing tailored to each offtaker’s needs.”

Apex Clean Energy develops, constructs, and operates utility-scale wind and solar power facilities across North America.

Apple-led group to buy power from new wind farm in Texas

Renewables Now | November 5, 2019

A group of companies led by Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) have entered into an aggregation agreement that calls for them to buy 75 MW of power from a wind park in Texas that is owned and developed by Apex Clean Energy.

Apart from Apple, the other sides in this shared energy purchase are eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY), Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC and Sprint (NYSE:S).

The parties have agreed to buy electricity from the 500-MW White Mesa wind farm in Crockett County. Apex Clean Energy expects to have that plant up and running in 2021. The scheme envisages the installation of up to 150 turbines, according to information on the project website.

The aggregation agreement was facilitated by 3Degrees.

As climate threat looms, Texas Republicans have a solution: giant wind farm everywhere

Caller.com | October 30, 2019

ROSCOE, Texas — The sprawling Roscoe Wind Complex stretches across four counties and 84,000 acres in West Texas — bigger than five Manhattan islands. Located about three hours west of Fort Worth, it’s comprised of 627 turbines that could generate up to 782 megawatts of electricity an hour, or enough to power 234,000 homes for a full year. 

Nearing the wind complex, first one enormous turbine emerges from the cotton and wheat fields, then another, then a row of them — then hundreds, their gigantic blades spinning steadily in the blustery Texas wind. Each turbine is more than 200 feet tall, the size of a 20-story building, with blades that point 95 feet into the air.

For a state tied both economically and in the American imagination to oil, gas and coal, Texas has in recent years become the biggest generator of wind power in the U.S. By next year, Texas is poised to get more of its electricity from wind than coal. 

All that wind adds up. Texas now produces one-quarter of all U.S. electricity from wind. If Texas were a country, it would rank fifth in the world for wind power capacity. 

“There was a bunch of demand, there was a bunch of wind and there was policy that supported competition,” said Susan Sloan, vice president for state affairs with the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C. “It has just really blossomed.”

Texas’ robust use of its wind could also serve as a map for other U.S. states with substantial wind resources at a time when climate change scientists are warning that governments must embrace clean energy or the Earth could become uninhabitable. 

Texas isn’t oil country, or coal country, or even fracking country, said Sarah Mills, an engineer and development expert who studies wind energy in rural areas at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Texas is simply energy country,” she said.

Why Texas is such great wind country

There are several reasons why Texas has become the nation’s largest producer of electricity from wind. 

First off, it’s gusty as all get out. “Texas has a boatload of wind,” said Chrissy Mann of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter.

Texas sits right in the wind belt, a swath of land blessed with an excellent wind resource. The wind resource continues straight up the middle of the country to Canada and includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. There’s alsosignificant wind in portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wyoming and Montana. 

Most have been building out their wind energy installations. Iowa gets 34% of its energy from wind power and in Michigan some townships are using taxes from wind turbines to pay down their pension liabilities, said Mills. BY GHIRARDELLIMakes Life a Bite BetterSee more →

But the Lone Star state has it all: less restrictive zoning, taxation systems that encourage building and robust transmission lines that together have allowed it to jump ahead of the rest. 

“Texas is unique. It’s got a range of policies that all play well together,” said Mills.Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

Texas crucially decided in 2005 to invest in 464 miles of power transmission lines stretching from the northern and western parts of the state, where the wind blows, to the eastern part of the state, home to most of its cities and industry.

“It’s really the expansion of Texas’ transmission lines that explain Texas’ success,” said Mills.

The state’s wind revolution began under then-Gov. George W. Bush, who oversaw the deregulation of the state’s electricity market beginning in 1999. It boomed under his successor, Rick Perry, a Republican governor who’s now the U.S. Secretary of Energy and a strong proponent of fossil fuels.

The Roscoe Wind Complex in West Texas was the largest wind farm in the world when it opened in 2009.

The Roscoe Wind Complex in West Texas was the largest wind farm in the world when it opened in 2009. (Photo: Erich Schlegel for USA TODAY)

“They were interested in economic development for the state. It wasn’t a matter of climate change or ideology, it was purely economics. This has always received bipartisan support in Texas,” said Robert Stavins, a professor of energy and economic development at the Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Texas’ wind industry also benefits from the state having large rural areas with few zoning restrictions and a strong ethos of limited government intervention into what landowners can do on their own property. 

“There aren’t a ton of rules about where things get put. And there are lots of landowners with large swaths of land who can place multiple turbines,” said Mills.

Texas has its own energy transmission system, ERCOT. Because the state controls its energy and because the system doesn’t cross state lines, it’s not subject to the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which would give the federal government the power to regulate it, said Stavins. 

“It doesn’t have to receive federal permits, so it’s able to move more quickly on infrastructure,” he said.

Building out everywhere

Roscoe is just one of multiple enormous wind power installations in the state. There are also smaller wind farms.

The Roscoe complex is owned and run by German energy firm RWE Renewables, which recently acquired it from E.ON, also based in Germany.  

As long as the wind blows, the turbines spin, generating power that travels to Dallas, Houston and other urban centers in Texas, as well as much of the surrounding area, said Rich Hudson, the complex’s regional operations manager. On a recent day, he drove through the blacktop roads dissecting the wind complex, past switchyards and substations that send the energy to ERCOT.

Even West Texas’s powerful lightning storms don’t stop the turbines, Hudson said. The turbines are equipped with “lightning arrest systems” that send a bolt of lightning to the ground if they’re hit, Hudson said. They’re also designed to stop turning if the winds get too strong, he said. 

“They’re pretty robust,” Hudson said.

During Hurricane Harvey two years ago, a RWE wind farm near Corpus Christi was put to the test as the Category 4 storm took aim at the Texas coast.

Operators there shut down the turbines as the massive storm neared and “feathered” the blades – or angled them for the least amount of wind resistance, said Matt Tulis, an Austin-based spokesman for RWE. A substation and another facility flooded but the turbines were unscathed.

“When the guys got back on site, they were surprised at how little damage there was,” he said.

Thousands of wind turbines

In all, Texas has 14,720 wind turbines operating in the state, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

Despite the high number of turbines in the state, national data shows that in general residents who live by wind turbines don’t seem perturbed by them.

A study published this month by the federal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California found that 57% of people who lived within 5 miles of a wind turbine were either positive or very positive about them. Only 8% were negative or very negative. The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The majority of people we surveyed were within half a mile of an existing turbine, so they were people who know all about them, they’ve heard them and seen them day and night,” said Ben Hoen, a research scientist with the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at the federal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Wind produces a substantial number of jobs in the state. More than 25,000 Texans work in the industry. To maintain the turbines, teams of technicians constantly visit the structures, inspecting gears or conducting pre-planned maintenance.

Wind dollars pay for local services

For rural communities that have been hollowed out by declines in agriculture and manufacturing, wind energy is a win, said the American Wind Energy Association’s Sloan.

Texas produces more wind power than any other state.

Texas produces more wind power than any other state. (Photo: Erich Schlegel for USA TODAY)

“The farmers and ranchers get the income from the land, the communities get a bigger tax base and the cities get a cheap, stable energy source,” she said.

All this makes wind an increasingly valuable resource that’s allowing rural areas to remain vibrant, said Cyrus Reed, conservation director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the oldest environmental groups in the nation.

“You don’t have to choose,” said Reed. “You can have turbines and a cotton field and a pumpjack [oil well] all on the same acre.”

KC Hope, a technician at the RWE complex in Roscoe, agrees. He’s seen how the wind farm has transformed his small hometown, with its population of 1,293. Landowners are earning steady royalties from turbines on their farms and the local county has been bolstered by a surge in tax revenue, he said. 

The turbine leasing money went into transforming the local high school, Roscoe Collegiate High –“Home of the Plowboys and Plowgirls”– into a top-tier, state-of-the-art STEM school that draws transfer students from other counties, said Hope, who is also a city councilman. 

“We’ve transformed in a way we wouldn’t have without them,” he said of the turbines.