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Reliant Energy signs on for wind, landfill gas projects

Houston’s Reliant Energy Inc. will buy electricity from a new $150 million 200 Mw wind power project being developed in Upton County near McCamey in west Texas, the company reported Thursday.

In addition, the Reliant is participating in a landfill gas-to-electricity project with Waste Management Inc. which will produce about 50 Mw of power, Job Bob Perkins, Reliant Energy Wholesale Group president said at a press conference.

The wind power project, the largest single installation of its kind in the world, company officials said, will be located on 3,141-foot King Mountain. The methane gas-to-electricity generation project will involve 12 existing landfill sites in Texas. Perkins said Reliant Energy to begin purchasing electricity from both projects by the fourth quarter of 2001.

These projects will help in meeting Texas’s legally mandated requirement to have 2,000 Mw of new renewable power projects developed by Jan. 1, 2009, Perkins said. The renewable energy requirement was a provision of SB 7, the law restructuring the state electricity market..

Electricity produced by the projects will be sold into the state’s power grid, to rural electric cooperatives, and to other retail energy providers once the state’s energy markets are open to competition. Company officials said the power generated by the project will be sufficient to serve some 80,000 households.

“We believe there will be a niche market opportunity among our customers who want green power,” Perkins said. Depending on the level of demand, the electricity could command a premium. “If I can’t sell it at a premium, I will bundle it with other power,” Perkins said.

The wind power project, to be called King Mountain Wind Ranch, will produce electricity from about 160 wind turbine generators, each capable of generating 1.3 Mw. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall. As part of the project, Cielo Wind Power, LLC, Austin, and Renewable Energy Systems (USA) Inc., will develop, build, and operate King Mountain Wind Ranch on a turnkey basis. Renewable Energy Systems, an affiliate of the UK’s McAlpine Group, has developed wind power facilities in Europe, California, and Texas.

Reliant Energy will buy the electricity from Cielo Wind Power and Renewable Energy Systems for resale. Walt Hornaday, Cieolo president, said the project is expected to produced electricity 80% of the time and will use mostly existing power lines built to serve area oil and gas wells that are now abandoned.

He said initial project data indicate no ill effects on wildlife, and the turbine generators will be designed to reduce the risk of injuring wildfowl.

Reliant Energy’s landfill gas-to-electricity project will produce a total of 44 Mw of power, utilizing methane gas that occurs naturally in landfills as materials decompose. The methane will be collected from shallow wells drilled into each landfill. The gas will then enter a closed pipeline system connecting to reciprocating engines. The methane will fuel the engines, which, in turn, will generate electricity.

Perkins said the process of obtaining air permits for the projects from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission is already under way.

Landfills included in the project are the Atascocita and Blue Bonnet landfills in the Houston area. Others are located in Alvin, Security, Conroe, New Braunfels, Hutto, Temple, Waco, Sherman, Kingston, and Fort Worth. All are operated by Waste Management Houston.

Jenbacher Energiesysteme LTD, the American subsidiary of Jenbacher AG, of Austria, will supply the engines that will be used to convert the gas into electricity.