The average price of U.S. wind power declined by 58 percent

Construction on the Roosevelt Wind Energy Project has begun, according to Jeff Keppert, associate project developer with EDF Renewables.

Keppert gave an update on the project to Portales business leaders Friday at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Keppert gave some background on EDF Renewables, which owns the wind farm, saying they operate in 18 countries and are one of the largest utilities in the world, proving 25 percent of Europe’s electricity.

He added that his corporation is also involved in biomass and biogas projects and is now pursuing pumped water storage projects and battery storage projects.

Keppert told chamber members wind energy tax credits are likely going to go away in the near future.

“We believe we don’t need a wind energy production tax credit to carry on,” Keppert said. “Wind is not going away. We can still be successful.”

Keppert listed the following as wind energy facts that “weren’t always the case”:
• It’s affordable — The average price of U.S. wind power declined by 58 percent from 2009 to 2013.

•U.S. wind power is increasingly cost-competitive with all other forms of electric generation, including shale gas at today’s unsustainably low prices.

•Improved technology — Taller towers, longer blades, improved gearboxes and over 30 years of experience in siting wind turbines to maximize their power output have helped drive down costs.

Keppert also mentioned negative reputations with wind energy being improved, such as eagles being killed by wind turbines more than any other energy source.

He said that was the case in the early 1980s, but now, wind turbines are only responsible for 2 percent of American Eagle deaths, because lights and sonar are now placed on turbines to scare birds away.

He said the amount of wind in Eastern New Mexico as well as how rural the region is are huge benefits for any wind energy project.

Keppert said it took EDF four years to get to the construction phase of a project in Southern California due to obstacles with land, water, protected species and so on, whereas the Roosevelt County project was began in late 2013 with construction beginning this summer.

He said the Roosevelt County project was approved by the U.S. Air Force as well as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

He said the project also does not endanger the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

He said construction on the wind turbine pads has already begun and will be completed in June, and the 150 turbines for the project, which stand 440 feet tall (each blade is 160 feet long), will begin arriving in August.

Each 2-megawatt wind turbine will produce enough electricity to power 1,000 homes per year.

Keppert said the other positives of the project are local schools receiving $700,000 in revenue from Industrial Revenue Bonds secured for the project, and EDF will be widening and improving county roads as part of their agreement with Roosevelt County.

“These wind turbines will be turning about 50 percent of the time, which is about twice as much as any other wind energy project I’ve worked on,” Keppert said. “You’ve just got great wind here.”

He said they hope to have the project completed by the end of the year, adding that sometime in 2014, EDF will have a blade-signing ceremony in Portales to celebrate the project.