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USA: Feds seek feedback on Pantex wind farm

Published at: Feb 12, 2012
source: Amarillo Globe-News
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The Federal government has asked all interested companies to submit feedback on the proposed wind farm at the nuclear weapons assembly and dissembly plant, Pantex.

Potential developers interested in the Pantex wind farm project have one more chance to review a work statement by federal energy officials before the government writes a final request for proposals this spring.

The companies have until Feb. 17 to submit their comments and suggestions, which the agency will use to draft a final request for proposal, said Johnnie Guelker, Pantex’s assistant manager for environmental and site engineering programs. The proposal for bids is tentatively scheduled to be made public in March, he said.

Katherine Weber, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s contract specialist for the project, was not available for comment Friday.

The February work statement is the NNSA’s second attempt within the last year to solicit interested businesses’ feedback. A list of the businesses that have provided comments could not be obtained Friday.

“A lot of the questions were based on what was missing,” Guelker said. “We’ve put that in, so we’re just trying to see if there’s any additional comments and questions that come out of that.”

About three years ago, Pantex and Texas Tech University officials agreed to research the feasibility of building a wind farm at the plant, which uses 7 megawatts of power every day purchased from Xcel Energy. That racks up an annual bill of more than $4 million for the Carson County nuclear weapons facility.

The arrangement will include a 15-year contract between the NNSA and the private energy company that wins the bid. The deal, an Energy Savings Performance Contract, allows federal agencies to initiate energy-saving projects without up-front capital costs from the government.

Pantex and Texas Tech have eyed the 1,500-acre federal property east of the plant for the wind farm, where officials hope to construct up to seven turbines. The most recent government estimate puts the plant’s annual energy cost savings at about $2.5 million.

In June, when officials released preliminary plans for the wind farm, companies said they wanted more information on the technical aspects of the project, Guelker said.

“The design was critical to bidders,” he said. “That gives them technical requirements of units we’re expecting to put into place. We’re trying to get the vendors an idea what we’re looking for from a performance standpoint, capacity and what the turbines will do — to see if they can do it.”

As part of the firms’ feedback, officials included in the current work statement 26 pages of plant diagrams, which cover about 75 percent of the installation plans, Guelker said.

“There is still a little bit of design work required by the vendor, but the plan is nearly complete and then they have to fill in the few blanks,” he said. “We don’t know what they’re going to propose.”

American Wind Energy Association spokeswoman Ellen Carey said wind energy is a viable alternative for individuals and businesses in the state.

“For Texas, this is a resource that uses no fuel and no water,” Carey said. “Like last summer, that wind can help power the state when there were big droughts and high heat waves.”

Carey said she could not speak about Pantex’s wind farm, but national trends show wind developers are on track to reach their goal of making 20 percent of domestic energy by 2030 solely from wind power.

The standard, outlined in a 2006 U.S. Department of Energy report, said the wind industry employs nearly 75,000 people. About 10,000 of those jobs are in Texas, it said.

“It’s just an example of how having wind in a diversified portfolio is a positive,” Carey said.

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