DALLAS, TX -- May 15, 2008 -- Mesa Power LLP, a company created by legendary energy executive T. Boone Pickens, has placed an order with General Electric to purchase 667 wind turbines capable of generating 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 300,000 average U.S. homes.
The agreement represents the first phase of the four-phase Pampa Wind Project that will become the world’s largest wind energy project, with more than 4,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for 1.3 million homes. When all phases of the project are completed as projected in 2014, the wind farm will be five times as big as the nation’s current largest wind power project, now producing 736 megawatts.
Pickens said he expects that first phase of the project will cost about $2 billion, and that electricity from the project will be on-line by early 2011. When complete, the Pampa Wind Project will cover some 400,000 acres in the Texas Panhandle.
"T. Boone Pickens' commitment underscores the ability of wind technology to help meet the country's need for diverse sources of energy," said Jeffrey R. Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO. "As America’s demand for energy escalates, it is clear that wind can and will play a bigger part in meeting that need. We're excited to partner with an energy visionary like T. Boone Pickens to bring our wind technology to the marketplace."
GE is to deliver the 1.5-megawatt wind turbines in 2010 and 2011. The GE 1.5-megawatt turbines, are among the most widely used wind turbines in its class.
In August of 2007, Mesa Power filed documents with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to add the 4,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity to the power grid in Texas. ERCOT, which operates as part of the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), manages the state's power grid. Mesa Power has nominated its wind turbine output to be delivered by Texas’ Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) transmission lines. The CREZ transmission lines will benefit Texas electric users by delivering them cost effective and reliable electricity generated by renewable energy power projects.
Based on extensive testing, Pickens said the project area has some of the best wind in the nation. He is also pleased that landowners have been so supportive of the project.
“We have had a great response to this project,” Pickens said. “We are making Pampa the wind capital of the world. It’s clear that landowners and local officials understand the economic benefits that this renewable energy can bring not only to landowners who are involved with the project, but also in revitalizing an area that has struggled in recent years.”
Pickens envisions that large scale renewable energy projects like his Pampa Wind Project will permit the United States to become less dependent on foreign oil. Large scale renewable energy projects such as this are difficult to execute because they rely upon the Federal Production Tax Credit, which provides incentives for development of renewable energy. However, large scale renewable energy projects require commitments years in advance, while Congress has only extended the Production Tax Credit one or two years at a time.
Mesa Power is hopeful that the Pampa Wind Project will qualify for the Federal Production Tax Credits in 2010 and 2011 when the project will begin commercial operations. “I believe that Congress will recognize that it is critical not only to this project, but to renewable energy in this country, that they enact a long-term extension of the Production Tax Credits,” Pickens said.
“The development of alternative energy projects, especially renewable resources such as wind power, is critical for the future of the country in the face of declining world oil resources,” he said.
“You find an oilfield, it peaks and starts declining, and you've got to find another one to replace it,” said Pickens, who once operated one of the largest independent oil and gas production companies. “It can drive you crazy. With wind, there's no decline curve. ”
The Panhandle, with its wide-open space, low population and steady winds, is a logical location for wind-generated energy. Studies show the Texas Panhandle winds are optimal for such a project, blowing much of the time in the middle of the day when electric demand is at its peak.
Mesa Power has leased land in Carson, Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler counties, where the landowners will receive annual royalties for the wind turbines operating on their property.
Development of the region’s wind resources will also create an economic bonus similar to the boom the three largest wind farms in America have created around Sweetwater in Nolan County. While other towns in West Texas struggle with plummeting house prices and job losses, Sweetwater is in the midst of a construction explosion. Two new companies opened in the past month, one servicing the blades of the county's 2,000 turbines, another renting out cranes used in erecting new turbines. Tax revenues from the wind energy companies are bringing jobs, new roads and houses, and renovating local schools and hospitals there.
An Austin-based Resource Inc. economic impact study, commissioned by Mesa Power, projects that the Mesa Power wind farm will bring significant increases in jobs and income for the five counties of the project investment zone (Carson, Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler counties).
The study forecast the project would generate an estimated 1,500 jobs during the construction phase, and 720 during a typical year of the operation phase; personal income in the project investment zone will rise by $68.7 million per year during the construction phase, and $120 million during the operation phase. The more significant impact during the operation phase is largely due to lease payments to be made to landowners in the project area amounting to $65.3 million per year.
Resource Economics estimates that the total value of economic output in the region due to the project will be $380 million per year during the construction phase and $1.6 billion per year during the operation period, and additions to the tax rolls of school districts in the project investment zone will amount to $2.4 billion by 2018, assuming the school districts approve an application to limit appraisal values during the project’s first 10 years.
Unicredit served as financial adviser and Vinson & Elkins as counsel to Mesa Power in the transaction.