Texas-based renewable energy company Pioneer Green Energy has announced plans to develop two wind energy projects in northeast Alabama, the state’s first wind energy facilities.
“These wind energy projects will increase our energy independence and help move the country away from unstable foreign energy supplies,” stated David Savage, Pioneer Green Energy co-founder and vice president. “It will also reduce Alabama’s dependence on other sources of energy that cause pollution and rely heavily on fuel from others states. Instead, Alabama will be able to diversify its energy sources by adding an inexhaustible and clean source of energy found right in its own backyard.”
The two wind projects are set to be completed in 2014.
- Shinbone Wind Energy Center will be located in Cherokee County and is expected to start operation in the first or second quarter of 2014. The project will consist of eight wind turbines with a combined capacity to supply 18.4 megawatts of electricity to the existing TVA transmission system, which itself supplies local electric cooperatives. The electricity generated by the Shinbone Wind Energy Center will be enough to power more than half of the homes in Cherokee County.
- Noccalula Wind Energy Center is set to be installed in the neighboring Etowah County and will consist of 40 turbines with a total generating capacity of 80 megawatts. The project is expected to be in operation by the second or third quarter of 2014 and will generate enough electricity to power tens of thousands of homes.
As with all new wind installation projects, these two Alabama projects are expected to create new jobs in the state — both in initial construction and later in operation and maintenance. The projects will also hopefully increase tax revenues for the state: in fact, an economic impact study conducted by Jacksonville State University found that both projects will contribute over $1 million a year in county tax revenues for more than 30 years.
Wind farms have not been a common site throughout the US South, as the technology is not as conducive to the regular wind speeds in the region compared to other regions. Unlike states like California or Texas, wind speeds can be as much as 30–50% less in the South.
The technology has grown, however. “Blades are stronger, lighter and more efficient in the way they cut through the air,” said Patrick Buckley, Pioneer’s development manager. “The towers can be built at a taller height, so you have a more robust generation source.”
Buckley likens the US South to Europe, where they have pushed the technology to be highly efficient despite less land to develop upon and lower wind speeds. Alabama 10 years ago was a tough prospect for any developer, which was why Pioneer passed on developing in the region.
“It wasn’t quite feasible, given the technology at the time,” Buckley said. “But if you fast forward 10 years, we’re now looking at a project that can be built and brought onto the grid at a price that’s competitive with other conventional sources of electricity provided by local and regional utilities.”
With developers now pushing into new areas within already developed countries, the wind industry has a promising future.