Officials break ground on wind farm for nuclear weapons plant

Source: E&E • Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Construction starts today on the largest federally owned wind farm in the country — which is being positioned next to the nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly plant.

The 1,500-acre wind farm near Amarillo, Texas, will have five 2.3-megawatt turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power 3,500 homes each year.

The project is being built next to Pantex, the nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, and is expected to generate $2.8 million in energy savings. The savings will cover 60 percent of the facility’s electricity costs.

Critics of the nuclear facility said they support the wind farm.

“I want them to close down the nuclear weapons facility as soon as they finish dismantling all the weapons,” said state Rep. Lon Burnam (D). “But while they are operating, I want them to use environmentally clean energy.”

The Department of Energy tapped Siemens Government Technologies Inc. to build and run the wind farm. Siemens agreed to front $50.5 million over 18 years to pay for the project under an energy savings performance contract with the federal government.

“This is such an important project,” said Barbara Humpton, the head of business development for Siemens. “The idea of advancing renewable energy through these kinds of contracts is really going to help fulfill the nation’s needs for sustainability.”

The wind farm was in the planning stages for several years. Officials fast-tracked the project this summer after President Obama announced a sweeping new climate change plan. Once complete, the wind farm is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 35 metric tons each year.

The Pantex facility opened in 1942 and was used to build artillery shells and bombs during World War II. The facility closed after the war but was reopened in 1951 as a place to handle nuclear weapons (Anna Tinsley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 11)