LCRA has supported development of wind power — a nonpolluting source of renewable energy — from its beginning in Texas. In 1995, LCRA invested in the state's first commercial scale wind project. It currently purchases 116 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity from three West Texas wind farms. LCRA nearly tripled its use of renewable wind power in November 2010 when it began purchasing an additional 200 MW from Papalote Creek II Wind Farm near the Texas Gulf Coast.
Turbines are used in nearly all electrical generating technologies, and wind power is no different. The blades — or rotors — of a wind turbine are similar to airplane blades. Strong, steady winds cause the blades, some as long as 160 feet, to rotate a turbine. The rotating motion of magnets in the turbines causes an electric field that can generate a flow of electrical current.
Wind turbines are usually mounted on towers from 100 feet to 300 feet tall because wind speed increases with height. Turbines operate best in areas where wind speeds are 16 mph to 20 mph at a height of 50 meters, but some newer models are designed to withstand hurricane-strength conditions . Wide open West Texas, where the winds whip across the plains, and the Gulf Coast region, are ideal locations for wind power projects, also called wind farms.
Here is a look at the wind power projects in which LCRA participates:
- Texas Wind Power Project
Begun in 1995, the Texas Wind Power Project in Culberson County provides 35 MW of wind power capacity to LCRA. LCRA sells 10 MW from the project to the City of Austin. NextEra Energy operates the facility.
- Delaware Mountain Wind Farm
In 1999, the Delaware Mountain Wind Farm began operations near the Texas Wind Power Project. LCRA, with a commitment to buy 30 MW of capacity, now is the only purchaser from this facility. This wind farm was developed by National Wind Power and now is owned by NextEra Energy.
- Indian Mesa Wind Farm
In 2001, LCRA more than doubled its wind power portfolio by committing to buy up to 51 MW of capacity from Indian Mesa Wind Energy Center in Pecos County. The facility was developed by National Wind Power and is now owned by NextEra Energy.
- Papalote Creek Wind Farm
In 2009, LCRA signed an 18-year purchased power agreement for 200 MW of renewable wind power from the second phase of the Papalote Creek Wind Farm, in San Patricio County, about 30 miles north of Corpus Christi. LCRA began receiving power from the new facility in summer 2010, and the project was completed in November 2010. Unlike wind-powered generators in West Texas, Papalote Creek’s location on the Texas Gulf Coast will provide more wind power during late afternoon when demand for power is high. Papalote Creek Wind Farm is owned and operated by E.ON Climate and Renewables.