Austin Energy said May 12 that it added two commercial wind plants to its fleet in late April, pushing the city-owned utility well past 1,000 MW of wind-powered electric capacity.
To make the best use of federal tax subsidies, Austin Energy contracts with private, for-profit companies to construct and operate wind power plants. Austin Energy agrees to take the power created by the plants, which it sells into the statewide electric market called the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Within a three-day period between April 22 and 24, two such plants opened for commercial operations, one in the Texas Panhandle and another hundreds of miles away in South Texas. The two total 500 MW of capacity.
“We are now able to add more renewable wind power because of the strength of the state’s utility grid,” said Larry Weis, General Manager of Austin Energy. “With successes like this, Austin Energy will be able to surpass its 2020 goal of 35 percent renewable energy production, and propel us toward the goal of 55 percent renewable energy power supply to our customers.”
Austin Energy began purchasing wind power in 1995 from the state’s first commercial wind plant. Since then, Austin Energy has added nine additional wind contracts in areas across Texas. The new projects are:
- On April 22, the Jumbo Road wind farm began commercial operation. The Jumbo Road facility is located in the Texas Panhandle and is owned and operated by TX Jumbo Road Wind LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of BHE Renewables. The project consists of 162 wind turbines with the capacity to generate approximately 300 MW. Austin Energy will purchase all of the power from the Jumbo Road wind farm under an 18-year agreement.
- The Los Vientos III project, owned and operated by Los Vientos Windpower III LLC, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Renewables, began commercial operation on April 24. The project consists of 100 wind turbines and is located about 100 miles west of Brownsville near Rio Grande City in Starr County. The capacity of the Los Vientos III wind farm is 200 MW. Austin Energy will purchase all of the power under a 25-year agreement.
Together the Los Vientos III and Jumbo Road wind farms bring Austin Energy’s wind portfolio to 1,340 MW of installed capacity. In total, these wind farms can generate an estimated 1.7 million megawatt hours per year combined. Currently, wind energy accounts for nearly one third of Austin Energy’s total electric generation capacity. Austin Energy’s 1,340 MW of wind power is about 10% of ERCOT’s wind power fleet.