Two weeks of news: Diverse wind power purchases, turbine orders illuminate industry on the move

15 November 2013 by Carl Levesque Carl Levesque
AWEA’s U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter Market Report, released at the end of last month, conveyed that industry activity had picked up. A slew of news in the last week-plus concerning some key industry indicators, as well as a fascinating and unexpected trend, bore that out.

Indicator No. 1: Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). For the last several months, AWEA has been noting increased interest in wind on the part of utilities. The 3Q market report revealed that utilities have signed 5,670 megawatts (MW) of new PPAs.

Just this week, wind PPAs were in the news at least three times. On Tuesday Apex Clean Energy, through its subsidiary Balko Wind, LLC, signed a Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement withWestern Farmers Electric Cooperative for 100 MW of wind energy from Apex’s Balko Wind project.  The contract covered the final megawatts sold on the 300 MW project, which is expected to come online in 2015. No question, Apex has been busy. Just last week, Kansas-based investor-owned utility Westar Energy, Inc., said it has reached agreement with the developer to purchase 200 MW from a wind farm Apex will build near Arkansas City.

Also last week, Basin Electric signed two PPAs for electrons generated at a pair of Infinity Wind Power’s North Dakota projects. The 106-MW Sunflower Wind Project is located in Morton County, near Hebron, and the 172-MW Antelope Hills Wind Project is in Mercer County, near Golden Valley. Both facilities are expected to be online by the end of 2015.

Finally, this week, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission signed off on three 20-year PPAs lined up by Xcel Energy utility subsidiary Southwestern Public Service Co. Two of the contracts are for power from NextEra Energy Resources projects—199 MW from the Mammoth Plains facility in Oklahoma and 249 MW from the Palo Duro wind project in Texas. Both of those projects are expected to be completed next year. The Xcel Energy subsidiary entered the third contract for energy coming from Infinity Wind Power’s Roosevelt wind farm, which will be online by the end of 2015.

Indicator No. 2 (and unexpected trend): non-utility wind power purchases. A couple of years ago, when Google began buying wind energy directly from project owners to power its data centers, the practice might have been assumed to be merely the strategy of one progressive company already known for doing business in an out-of-the-box sort of way. Today, though, the practice of buying cost-effective, clean wind energy appears to have caught on. This week alone, both Facebook and IKEA were in the news with such purchases. While Facebook’s announcement this week involves renewable energy certificates, it decided to locate its facility in wind energy-rich Iowa for a reason. IKEA, meanwhile, this week said it has bought a 46-MW Canadian wind farm from Mainstream Renewable Power. And on top of those announcements, there’s the Microsoft news already reported last week in the Wind Energy Weekly and AWEA’s Into the Wind blog: The software giant recently announced it has signed a PPA for all of the energy coming from RES Americas’ Keechi Wind facility, a 110-MW project expected to be completed in 2015.

Indicator No. 3: Turbine orders. It’s generally well known that original equipment manufacturers such as Vestas have been booking orders and hiring additional workers to fill them.  Add Acciona to the list of OEMs that have been revving up. This week the turbine manufacturer said it has inked a $400 million deal to supply 100 of its AW 116/3000 3-MW turbines--its biggest U.S. order ever for that model--to an unnamed customer in Texas.

Photo credit: First Wind