A wind farm that can power 168,000 homes is blowing into Central Texas

Source: By Orla McCaffrey, Dallas Morning News • Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019

When representatives of a renewable energy company first approached Concho County residents about building a wind farm on their sloping terrain in Central Texas, landowners weren’t sold.

Wind was still building its reputation as a reliable energy source back in 2007, and West Texas and the Panhandle claimed most projects. The Great Recession hit a few months later, and plans for the project were shelved.

But a series of nearby wind developments in recent years helped get locals on board, reviving plans for the site 2 miles northwest of Eden, Texas. Construction of a wind farm called Maverick Creek is set to begin in September, with annual wind energy production in the state on track to surpass coal energy for the first time.

“It’s a continuation of what we’ve been seeing, which is a robust wind buildout in Texas,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute.

Texas accounts for a quarter of wind-powered energy in the U.S.  Wind eclipsed coal as the state’s leading energy source through the first six months of 2019, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages electric power flow in the state.

 Maverick Creek is the biggest North America project yet for Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., the U.S. branch of a United Kingdom-based company of the same name.

The project’s 119 turbines can generate a combined 480 megawatts of power, a considerable output for a wind farm. It’s enough energy for 168,000 homes a year.

The electricity will be transported 18 miles to the nearest connection point with the electrical grid.

Maverick Creek utilizes land from about 60 local residents who will be paid for the use of their property, said Chad Horton, vice president for development at RES Americas.

The project will bring up to 175 temporary construction jobs to Concho County, which has just over 4,200 residents. Between five and 10 permanent jobs also will be created.

Food giant General Mills Inc. is financing the project through a 15-year agreement, in exchange for renewable energy credits. The credits can be bought and sold, giving companies a financial reason to invest in clean energy.

“It’s also an extension of corporate entities entering into agreements for wind turbines,” Rhodes said. “A lot of these companies want to source their energy from renewable locations.”

The company declined to disclose its total investment.

It’s not the first time the Minnesota manufacturer has sought renewable energy in Central Texas. In 2018, General Mills and General Motors Co. funded a smaller wind project in Concho County. The area’s mix of flat land and steep slopes make it a prime location for wind production.

Renewable Energy Systems and Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., a Canadian utility, will develop the new project. That includes building the turbines, roads connecting them and a substation for energy conversion.

The Maverick Creek plant is expected to start operating in late 2020.