“It’s a big job replacing the turbines, but now they are more efficient and more powerful. It’s good for Texas, which needs more power at times when demand is highest and that happens to be when the gulf breeze blows the most.” -Tommie Trowbridge
It is no secret that Texas’ population – and energy needs – continue to grow. Last year, the state had more than 500,000 new residents move in, and those people need electricity.
Pattern Energy embarked on a repowering of its Gulf Wind facility in Kenedy County, Texas early last year and recently completed the work. Repowering refers to upgrading the wind turbine technology to produce more energy and extend the life of the facility.
I talked to the Facility Manager for Gulf Wind, Tommie Trowbridge, to get the details on what this means for Texas.
“I can say this: I’m glad the repower is complete,” Tommie told me. “It’s a big job replacing the turbines, but now they are more efficient and more powerful. It’s good for Texas, which needs more power at times when demand is highest and that happens to be when the gulf breeze blows the most.”
Gulf Wind began operations in 2009. The gulf coast is a tough environment with hurricanes and saltwater air, and wind turbine technology has made significant advances in the last decade.
Advances in technology allow the repowered facility to capture more wind energy per turbine, increasing production and reducing the cost of electricity, which means more affordable power to consumers.
Repowering is also more efficient than building a new facility from scratch. Pattern Energy reused the original turbine pads, foundations and collection system, while the turbine nacelles, towers, and blades were replaced.
About 75 percent of the old blades were recycled or sold to a wind turbine services company that can reuse them. The turbine light bulbs, gearbox oil, and batteries were also recycled.
Pattern Energy is exploring ways to learn from their first repowering experience to further reduce landfill waste the next go-around.
Gulf Wind has upgraded its turbines to be more efficient, yes, but then I asked Tommie: “In practical terms, how does Gulf Wind affect an ordinary Texan?”
You likely won’t ever see the turbines at Gulf Wind – the closest turbines to a highway are 19 miles away.
Gulf Wind is located on 9,600 acres of the Kenedy Ranch, owned by the Kenedy Memorial Foundation and leased by the facility. All funds received by the foundation support its mission to fight poverty, increase education, and build stronger communities.
Tommie was happy to explain the benefits to Texans in concrete terms: “Thanks to the repower, on average, we’re producing power equal to the needs of about 90,000 Texas homes, approximately 10,000 more than before the repower.
The repower also extends the life of the facility, which means more payments from Gulf Wind to the county, school district, and Kenedy Memorial Foundation, which all ultimately support Texans in this region.”
Over 25 years, Gulf Wind expects to generate $90 million for the local economy through tax and landowner payments.
The facility entered into a 20-year agreement with Austin Energy for the purchase of the energy Gulf Wind generates, meaning the repower will also help keep homes in Austin cool this summer.
You could say the breeze from the gulf coast now blows all the way to Austin!