Pantex to draw energy from wind power

  • Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 12:00 am

Wind farm will fuel plant, foster research

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “If enough people think of a thing and work hard enough at it, I guess it’s pretty nearly bound to happen, wind and weather permitting.” Soon, hard work, dedication and determination to do the right thing will make harnessing the Texas wind for energy a reality at Pantex.

For three years, the Pantex Site Office, now part of the NNSA Production Office, scaled such hurdles as funding, contracting strategy and Federal Aviation Administration approval to build a wind farm at the Plant, which is in a Class 4 wind zone. Explained Johnnie Guelker, assistant manager for Environmental and Site Engineering Programs, “I went into this project with at least five alternate plans to get this done. We are executing Plan E, and it will happen now.”

The Pantex wind farm, a first in the NNSA enterprise, will consist of five two- to three-megawatt turbines on 1,500 acres of government-owned property east of the Plant. A request for proposals is expected to be released this summer. The winning private energy company will enter into a 25-year contract with the NNSA and make an initial investment of $25 million.

The farm will generate approximately 10 to 15 megawatts of energy daily, though fueling Pantex requires only seven megawatts. The excess energy will be sent to the power grid for local provider, Excel Energy. Pantex will benefit from its sale, but at a reduced rate from what the Plant might spend to purchase the energy, according to Guelker.

Energy savings from the wind farm is estimated at $2.5 million annually, and the project will enable Pantex to meet the President’s energy initiatives for green energy. In fact, according to Guelker, the wind farm at Pantex will allow NNSA to meet almost all of its renewable energy goals. The wind farm also offers unique research opportunities to longtime partner in education, Texas Tech University.

“The wind farm that will be constructed at the NNSA Pantex facility will be built on public lands. As such, Texas Tech University and its research collaborators will have unprecedented access to a working, commercial-scale wind farm to study the turbine-to-turbine wake interactions across the full farm array. This working utility-scale wind farm will be the first such research facility in the nation,” said Jodey Arrington, vice chancellor for Research, Commercialization and Federal Relations at Texas Tech.

The Pantex wind farm is just the latest environmentally beneficial use of Plant land. Other uses include wildlife habitat and research, agricultural uses of non-industrial land such as crop activities and cattle grazing and archeological resource protection.

“Something worth having is worth all the effort it takes to get it done,” said Guelker. “This is the right thing for Pantex and it has substantial cost benefits. Bottom line, it is not easy to do but one must be persistent.”

The wind turbines, each 426 feet high, are expected to be constructed starting in the fall of 2012 and the farm operational in late spring or early summer of 2013.