BNSF Logistics, Tri Global Energy join forces for West Texas wind projectFebruary 28, 2014
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Bringing West Texas wind power east
On Jan. 29, the switch was flipped on the final segment of the $6.8 billion Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project and it went into service. The project will help bring the growing array of wind power electricity operations in West Texas to the more populous regions along the Interstate 35 corridor. The CREZ project is the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas’ response to a public mandate to increase renewable energy in Texas to serve the electricity needs in the state.
The opening of the new transmission lines will link five CREZ zones from Amarillo in the north to the Edwards Plateau in the south and reach eastward to Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco, Austin and San Antonio.
The new and upgraded high-voltage transmission lines will provide the backbone for what could eventually be as much as 18,450 megawatts (MW) of wind power by 2016, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT is studying whether additional enhancements will be needed to support increasing development of wind power expected in the Panhandle region.
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 7 in 1999 which restructured the state’s electricity industry and allowed the Lower Colorado River Authority to offer transmission services to other utilities throughout Texas. As a result of SB 7, the Legislature established a renewable portfolio standard for electric power generation, with the intent to install more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity from renewable energy technologies by Jan. 1, 2009. Through Senate Bill 20 in 2005 the Legislature raised the amount of renewable power generation to nearly 6,000 MW to be installed by Jan. 1, 2015. SB 20 further requires the PUC to set a target of 10,000 MW of renewable generation capacity to be installed by Jan. 1, 2025.
According to ERCOT, Texas has a current wind energy capacity of 10.6 gigawatts (GW). In February of last year, wind generation in Texas set a record of 9,481 MW or 28 percent of total load. – Robert Francis
A. Lee Graham
Months after announcing the nation’s largest wind farm project, Tri Global Energy LLC has joined forced with BNSF Logistics LLC to build a center to supply wind energy components and materials to support West Texas’ burgeoning role as an industry epicenter.
“The reason West Texas is a perfect place for wind energy is all three power grids meet in West Texas,” said Jim Craig, chief marketing officer for BNSF Logistics, a wholly owned Flower Mound-based subsidiary of Fort Worth’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC.
“We can sell it to California, the upper Midwest and Northeast and across the Southwest,” Craig said.
Joining forces makes sense, both companies say. With Tri Global’s wind energy development acumen and BNSF Logistics’ experience in freight movement, the partnership is expected to maximize the region’s ability to move wind farm components in and out of the region as demand causes wind farms to multiply.
The newly announced agreement calls for both companies to align resources, market knowledge and industry relationships to support BNSF Logistics’ development of Tri Global Energy’s West Texas Wind Energy Logistics Center, as the planned project is called. The center will be located north of Lubbock, according to BNSF Logistics officials.
Covering 40 acres, the initial stage is only the beginning; BNSF Logistics holds the option on the entire 200-acre site. When fully developed, the property is expected to receive, store and load out hundreds of turbine components arriving by rail and truck each month. The components come from China, Brazil and other countries.
The logistics center is expected to open in late April or early May and start receiving large volumes of components in 2015, Craig said.
Wind blades 100 feet long and 20 feet wide have become part of the West Texas horizon as they generate energy for communities hundreds of miles away.
But does demand exist in Fort Worth and the rest of North Texas?
“We’re already seeing it,” said Craig.
“We’re already using wind energy in Texas as it is because it’s put into the power grid along with more traditionally generated electricity,” Craig said.
Economic conditions now seem to favor wind energy production. According to Tri Global, the cost per megawatt is approaching a level that will make wind energy developers less reliant on subsidies or tax credits.
Companies building rotor blades and other wind farm components already are discussing moving those products through the planned West Texas logistics center. They have expressed interest in the facility’s component trans-loading and in-transit product handling, according to Tri Global officials.
“West Texas has emerged as the bulls-eye for wind energy projects in North America,” said John Billingsley, Tri Global Energy’s CEO, commenting in a news release. He cited “ideal” wind speeds, geography and location at the nexus of the nation’s three power grids as reasons for that status.
Sharing that enthusiasm is Ray Greer, BNSF Logistics president. “We are committed to meeting the unique needs of the wind energy industry, and our agreement with Tri Global is a strong vote of confidence in our approach,” Greer said.