Clean Power Wind farm to be built for Pantex Plant nuclear weapons facility

Published on August 14th, 2013 | by Tina Casey


Top U.S. Nuclear Weapons Facility To Be Powered By The Wind

August 14th, 2013 by  

File this one away under Poetic Justice: the largest ever federally owned wind power project just broke ground at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, which happens to be the nation’s #1 facility for maintaining its nuclear weapons arsenal. The project, which consists of five Siemens 2.3 series turbines with a combined capacity of 11.5 megawatts, is expected to provide more than 65 percent of the facility’s power by next summer. The wind farm project is also significant because of its location in Texas, which despite its long history as the heart of the U.S. oil and gas industry also happens to be the largest, fastest-growing wind power market in the U.S. by a wide, wide margin.

The Pantex Plant Wind Power Project

The new Pantex Plant wind farm was announced last January and just broke ground this week. Occupying about 1,500 acres, it will generate about 47 million kWh of electricity annually under a power purchase agreement with Siemens Government Technologies. Savings from the low price of wind power will go toward paying off the cost of the wind farm, so there is no up-front cost to taxpayers.

We’re looking at an average savings of $2.9 million per year for wind power over the 20-year life of the contract. The project will also double as a research site for Texas Tech University, which is already partners with the Department of Energy in a wind farm research project in Lubbock.

Wind farm to be built for Pantex Plant nuclear weapons facility

Pantex Plant courtesy of NNSA News.

 Siemens 2.3 Series Wind Turbines

We’ve spent some time talking about GE’s next-generation “brilliant” wind turbines, so it’s only fair to check into the tinkering that Siemens has done with its turbine tech.

Aside from the use of a “smart” wind farm management system the company calls Siemens NetConverter®, one key thing to note is the emphasis on reducing the need for routine maintenance. which makes a lot of sense when you consider the work hazards involved in the “turbine cowboy” field. The company’s SWT-2.3-93 wind turbine, for example, features automatic lubrication and a simplified generator system engineered without slip rings, along with internal climate control.

Siemens must be doing something right because even without all the up-to-date bells and whistles, the company notes that its first commercial wind turbine was installed in 1980 and is still operational. It also installed more than 1,100 turbines in California in a seven-year period ending in 1990, and 97 percent of those are still cranking out power.

Go, Texas Wind Power

As for that aforementioned Texas wind market, according to DOE by the end of last year Texas boasted a total installed wind capacity of 12,214 megawatts, which is double that of the next-highest state. If Texas was its own country (wait…it isn’t?), it would have more installed wind capacity than all but five other countries in the world.

It’s not just generating capacity, either. Texas is also the site of the largest wind energy storage facility in the U.S., a new, 36 megawatt behemoth at Duke Energy’s Notrees Windpower wind farm in the western part of the state  engineered by the Texas-based company Xtreme Power.

The project is a partnership with DOE under a matching grant of $22 million under the federal Recovery Act of 2009, so go ahead, say it…We built this!

But wait, there’s more. Xtreme Power is also collaborating on a new utility scale smart grid project with Samsung SDI, which completes the trifecta of clean energy generation, storage and transmission. If you think Texas is a hot wind power market now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • AChicagoLad

    Here are some numbers on price for this system.

    “Officials say payment for this facility is structured under an energy savings performance contract, which means Siemens fronts the money to pay for the system and receives $50.5 million over the next 18 years to pay for the cost of building and operating the farm as well as the financing.”

    Interesting.. Let’s see – with a cost of $1.5 – $2.0M per MW installed -
    for a total of cost to Siemens of between $17-23M. (Could actually be lower because they are using their own turbines!) Contract requires maintenance for 5 years. They get paid $50.5M over the next 18 years.
    Nice business !

    Also, I wonder why they didn’t add a couple of more turbines and come closer to providing 100% of electricity needs vs. the 65% noted. Plenty of acreage to spare.

  • Stan Hlegeris

    Please be careful with your megawatts and megawatt-hours.

    What does a “36 megawatt storage facility” mean? Do you mean it can deliver 36 megawatts of continuous power? Or did you mean to say “36 megawatt-hours,” that being the total amount of energy it could deliver over some period of time?

  • Matt

    Ok, looks like a little proof reading needed. These two statement do not match.
    “The project, which consists of five Siemens 2.3 series turbines”
    “Occupying about 1,500 acres”
    Come now maybe Pantex is located on 1,500 acres; but 5 turbines do not take up 1,500 acres.

    • Wayne Williamson

      Yeah, I was wonder also why they need more than 2 square miles for 5 wind turbines…

      • Bob_Wallace

        On average wind turbines take about 0.5 acres for footings, access roads, transmission, and ancillary buildings.

        So 2.5 acres for 5 turbines. 0.0039 square miles.

  • JamesWimberley

    The Pantex wind farm is important in another way. A factory assembling and dismantling nuclear weapons, which is what Pantex does, needs a totally reliable power supply. 15-minute or even 1-minute outages are not acceptable when you are tinkering with the plutonium and explosives in bomb cores. We can assume that Pantex has multiple backup systems to keep critical machinery and security on line 24/7. If wind energy can be integrated into the power supply of this plant, it can be integrated anywhere.

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