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Buffalo Dunes Wind Project: A lesson in export, affordability, and transmission

Buffalo Dunes Wind Project: A lesson in export, affordability, and transmission
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A project has entered the construction phase in Kansas, and the facility’s significance stretches hundreds of miles beyond the borders of the Sunflower State.

General contractor Renewable Energy Systems Americas (RES Americas) recently started construction on the 250-MW Buffalo Dunes Wind Project, a Kansas facility jointly owned by GE Energy Financial Services and Enel Green Power North America.

Located southwest of Garden City, Buffalo Dunes was developed by Kansas-based TradeWind Energy, LLC, which brought the project straight through the final stages of development. While RES Americas is serving as general contractor, its pre-construction team also worked closely with TradeWind Energy to optimize the project's engineering, design, and construction schedule. Buffalo Dunes is slated to be completed in December.

One notable aspect of the project is that it’s indicative of a strong export trend that has characterized Kansas wind energy development recently. Kansas wind energy development has been hot lately, and virtually all of the capacity built in the last year has been earmarked for destinations out of state.

The Buffalo Dunes facility will be no different. Alabama Power Company will buy most of the electricity from the project under a 20-year agreement.

With the build-out of additional transmission lines in recent years, a pathway has opened up for Kansas wind power to be delivered to the Southeast—to purchasers like Alabama Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

There are a few takeaways from this trend. First, today’s wind energy is affordable and competitive. Electricity rates in the Southeast have historically been low, yet wind power competes there these days.

The other takeaway: the importance of transmission. Studies have consistently shown that investment in modern transmission systems can bring down the cost of electricity for consumers—in part by enabling more renewable energy (and specifically wind power) development. Such power contracts as the Alabama Power PPA exemplify this impact that transmission can have.

"TradeWind has been a leader in delivering low-cost renewable energy to the Southeast and is honored to have RES Americas as a partner in yet another successful export project," said Matt Gilhousen, chief development officer for TradeWind. "They are the ideal partner for engineering and construction of a project such as this, because they understand the increased complexity and challenges that come with moving power from the Midwest to the Southeast."

The Buffalo Dunes Wind Project will use 135 GE turbines.

The wind project is expected to employ 150 construction workers, create 15 permanent jobs, generate enough electricity to power 85,000 homes and avoid approximately 800,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

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Carl has been a part of the AWEA team since 2006. He brings both his expertise in communications as well as experience with the evolving wind energy industry to the job of overseeing AWEA's online and written publications including the Wind Energy Weekly, WINDPOWER Update, WINDPOWER Today, and various print materials. He has worked as a journalist in the energy industry as a staff writer for Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine and in the association sector as senior editor at Association Management magazine. He also has covered the home-building industry, where his areas of greatest interest were sustainable development and "smart growth," and has written articles for numerous other publications as a freelance writer. Carl received his B.A. from James Madison University and spent some time in New Orleans employed as a teacher as well as working with homeless youth.

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