Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Not in your backyard

I know, I've been lax in posting, but here goes a new era.

There's buzz around the region about the Chinese coming to the Panhandle to build a wind farm. I've been asked a few times in the past week and couldn't find out anything specific because all the information floating around never says where the project will be except somewhere in Texas.

That narrows it down.

The New York Times environmental blog Green Inc. is equally vague, but here's the details it did contain, confirmed on the Web site of Cielo Wind Power, the Austin-based company partnering with the Chinese. It also is active in the Panhandle, most recently developing the Wildorado Wind Ranch and piling up leases for future development.

A-Power Energy Generation Systems, a Nasdaq company based in China, will ship in 240 of its 2.5 megawatt turbines for the project slated to cover 36,000 acres. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 billion.

But no wonder people are in a fluff, the company hopes to get $450 million of the financing from U.S. stimulus funds, and the project will create 2,000 Chinese manufacturing jobs, according to the blog. There will be American jobs, but not anywhere close to that.

The thing is, for any wind farm, construction jobs are temporary and the jobs to maintain the farms are few.

Cielo has created jobs in the Panhandle, like at the Wildorado Wind Ranch and White Deer's Llano Estacado Wind Ranch, and has plans to do more, but this deal isn't happening here.

I talked to Walt Hornaday, CEO of Cielo, yesterday, and he said the project will be somewhere downstate where there are transmission lines available now. The Panhandle's are still not absolutely guaranteed until the PUC decides wind developers have proven they will use them, and the process to make them happen puts the finish date in 2013.

Hornaday said the reason the news on where the farm will be is that the exact location is not yet concrete.

This isn't the first time Cielo has reached out to partner with an overseas company. Cielo and Samsung Heavy Industries of South Korea are planning to install three of Samsung's 2.5 megawatt prototype turbines near Lubbock for testing.

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