EnXco To Supply PG&E With New Solano County Wind Farm
East Bay Business Times - by Mavis Scanlon
April 18, 2008
Stephanie Secrest | East Bay Business Times
Greg Blue says enXco wants to expand.
A new wind farm being built by enXco near Rio Vista will add 150 megawatts to the total wind energy produced in Solano County, where turbines already generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.
In the 30 years since the California Energy Commission identified some southern and western parts of the county as attractive sites for wind farms, developers have installed wind turbines that generate 474 megawatts of power.
Earlier this month the California Public Utilities Commission approved a power-purchase agreement between Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and enXco, the Escondido subsidiary of French renewable energy company EdF Energies Nouvelles, that calls for enXco to build the 150-megawatt wind farm in Solano's Collinsville-Montezuma Hills Wind Resource Area. EnXco initially planned to erect 88 turbines that would generate 176 megawatts, but scaled back after it signed a contract for 150 megawatts. In a related project, PG&E will upgrade an 11-mile section of its existing Vaca Dixon-Contra Costa transmission line.
EnXco's Shiloh II generating facility, which will include 75 two-megawatt turbines on a 6,100-acre site in the Collinsville-Montezuma region, is slated to come on line at the end of this year. After a permitting process that ran 2½ years, the project's Environmental Impact Report was certified on March 20 and enXco received its conditional use permit for the project. Shiloh II will generate 70 to 80 construction jobs and 8 to 10 permanent jobs, according to Greg Blue, enXco's regional manager for external affairs.
Blue declined to disclose the total cost for the project. But the Minneapolis, Minn., nonprofit Windustry estimates that two-megawatt wind turbines cost about $3 million installed, which would put the price tag on Shiloh II at $225 million.
EnXco, which has a regional office in San Ramon, developed the 150-megawatt Shiloh I project before selling it to PPM Energy of Portland, and owns and operates the far smaller and much older wind farm enXco V - one of the original wind farms in the county.
With the latest enXco project, PG&E now has more than one gigawatt of wind power being delivered or under contract. It moves the state a notch closer to its goal of getting retail sellers of electricity to generate 33 percent of their energy sold from renewable sources by 2020. But as Solano County officials court further large-scale wind turbine electric generating facilities, they need to tackle a thorny issue that has hindered other proposed projects: the impact wind turbines have on air traffic control radar equipment at nearby Travis Air Force Base.
Depending on the number and location of turbines, they can affect a radar system's ability to locate and track planes in the air by causing false signals.
At least two wind power projects in the development stage, including a 128-megawatt development planned by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and projects totaling 105 megawatts planned by Florida's FPL Energy, are stalled or suspended as the companies work with the county, the Federal Aviation Administration and the military on the radar issues.
EnXco's Shiloh II project was also held up for about a year after the Air Force in March 2007 sent a letter stating its concerns over turbine interference with radar. After much back-and-forth, the Air Force finally concluded that issues with the radar equipment are an existing condition pertaining to the 700 or so wind turbines already installed in the Collinsville-Montezuma region. EnXco's project would not further deteriorate radar reception, it said.
Blue said enXco helped form a group to study the issue, and offered the Air Force $1 million for studying the issue and coming up with remedies.
Now, with the Air Force expected to install a new digital radar system later this year, the military wants to wait to see how the new equipment works relative to the turbines; the other firms interested in building new wind farms in Solano County may have months more to wait before they can proceed.
"Basically what we have to do is part of the costs of projects in the future includes putting in the fixes for the FAA," said Michael Reagan, a Solano County Supervisor for District 5, which includes the Collinsville-Montezuma wind resource area, the only one that has been developed in the county to date.
"The barriers to future growth center on the radar solution, which we're working through with the base," said Michael Ammann, president of the Solano County Economic Development Corp. Another issue Solano faces as it looks to further develop its designated wind resource areas is "having a wide enough (transmission) pipe into the grid," Ammann said.
Even as enXco gets this project under way, it is looking at developing other wind and solar energy projects, in Solano and elsewhere in California and the West. "We're going to be a large supplier of RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) power in California," Blue said.
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