Wind farm near Elida close to completion

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

The wind farm near Elida is nearing completion and will be generating power to homes in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma by the beginning of 2006.

Dave Hayward, field engineer of the wind-farm project, said 98 of the 120 wind turbines are in place and the completion date for the project is Dec. 15. Construction on the 120-megawatt facility began in July.

Owned by Padoma Wind Power LLC of La Jolla, Calif., the wind farm straddles the Roosevelt-Chaves County line.
Xcel Energy Inc. contracted to purchase all the electricity from for the first 20 years of operation.

The facility will provide enough power for the average annual needs of about 41,600 homes, Gary L. Gibson, Xcel Energy state vice president, said in a press release.

Don Russo, a safety manager for the plant construction, said each Mitsubishi turbine costs more than $1 million. Russo said Mitsubishi, the Japanese manufacturer, has six to eight Mitsubishi workers helping with the maintenance of the turbines during construction.

Hayward and Russo guided a group of Elida High School students through the wind farm on Tuesday to explain how the wind-turbine towers were constructed and how they work.

The $160-million San Juan Mesa wind farm is funded privately.

Hayward said the schedule has been so hectic some workers have had construction schedules in which they work 13 days in a row and get one day off.

The towers are 226 feet tall and the foundation is 37 feet by 37 feet.

Hayward said the tower section is built in El Paso, the blades in Juarez, Mexico, and the control system in Japan.

Hayward said there must be wind at a speed of at least 11 mph. According to Hayward, each turbine has a weather station in it. The weather station triggers the rotor to switch the direction it is facing so that it does not take the full force of the wind when it is at high speeds.

Hayward said at 50 mph the blades will shut down and the towers are designed to sustain 90-mph winds. Hayward said the heart and brain of the facility is the substation. The substation relays the electricity to the switch yard, which in turn sends it out to the power grid. From the power grid, the customers are able to receive energy.

“It was pretty interesting,” Vigo Torske, an Elida science teacher, said about the tour. “I was impressed with how fast they are able to put up the wind turbines. They are very efficient.”

Xcel Energy also purchases wind energy from a 1.98-megawatt wind facility near Texico and from 60 turbines near Tucumcari.