Friday, September 10, 2010
SMUD to boost capacity at Solano wind farm
Sacramento Business Journal - by Melanie Turner Staff writer
Sacramento Municipal Utility District is a step closer to more than doubling the capacity of its wind farm in Solano County, northwest of the Sacramento River, at a cost of more than $200 million.
The SMUD board of directors voted unanimously Sept. 1 to select Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. of Portland, Ore., to build phase 3 of the Solano wind project. Set to be operational by late 2011, phase 3 will add 128 megawatts and boost the wind farm’s production capacity to 230 megawatts, enough to power about 78,000 homes.
The board authorized John DiStasio, SMUD’s general manager and chief executive officer, to finalize and execute two contracts with Vestas-American, a subsidiary of Vestas Wind Systems A/S of Denmark, to develop and operate phase 3.
The contract for engineering, procurement and construction is valued at $203 million. A second contract for operations and maintenance over a period of 15 years is not to exceed $67 million.
Construction is set to begin in May, and the project is expected to generate 75 jobs, SMUD spokeswoman Dace Udris said.
The project will add 55 wind turbines to the site. It includes a dozen 3-megawatt turbines, which work best in high winds, and 31 1.8-megawatt turbines, which work better in lower wind conditions, Udris said.
SMUD installed 23 wind turbines in 2003 and 2004, and added 29 larger turbines from May 2006 to December 2007. The project currently produces up to 102 megawatts.
All the wind turbines at the site are Vestas machines. They range in size from 660 kilowatts to 3 megawatts. Each 3-megawatt turbine can produce enough energy for more than 1,000 homes each year.
California’s three investor-owned utilities face a Dec. 31 deadline to obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. And California wants to raise its renewable power requirements to 33 percent by 2020.
While the publicly owned SMUD is not under the state mandate, it is expected to be the only large electric utility in the state to meet the 2010 renewable energy goal this year.
The Solano wind farm will help SMUD reach its goal. SMUD is aiming to meet 23 percent of its retail electricity sales with renewable energy by 2011, and 33 percent from renewable sources by 2020.
Once phase 3 of the wind farm is completed, about a third of the renewable energy that goes to SMUD’s customers will come from wind energy, Udris said.
The SMUD project is one of many wind energy projects under way nationwide, though wind power sunk back to 2007 levels for the first half of 2010.
In 2009, the industry installed about $20 billion worth of new wind energy projects. This year the value of installed projects is expected to be half that, said John Dunlop, senior outreach and technical programs manager with the American Wind Energy Association.
The United States remains the world leader for total installed capacity for wind energy.
Nationwide, the average project size in 2009 was 75 megawatts, according to the association. The largest installed project in the country is a 782-megawatt project in Texas, according to the association.
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