AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Renewable wind energy is now a permanent part of the High Plains landscape, with turbines stretching from across the area.
Energy from the Panhandle wind has been a part of the West Texas landscape since settlers first arrived and erected windmills.
Some of the best winds in the world are found here, and as part of a pilot program within the Department of Energy, Pantex was picked to kick off renewable energy at DOE sites.
The High Plains has always been known for its ability to produce energy, with oil and natural gas being a major part of the economy. Currently, though, just about everywhere you look, wind turbines are overshadowing oil derricks.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the latest figures show Texas is the biggest producer of wind energy, with more than 15 percent of the state’s generation originating in the skies above.
Currently, it‘s estimated there are about 11,000 lone star turbines, and five of the biggest can be found across the street from the Pantex Plant. A few years ago, the federal government mandated that by 2020, renewable energy would account for 20% of the power needs for its facilities.
“So, in about 2009, they started doing alternative studies. We had a requirement, a federal requirement that was supposed to go into effect in 2020 to have 20% of our energy provided by a renewable source," said Pantex Senior Director of Engineering Joseph Papp. "And so, we started working on about 2009 doing some trade-off studies. Mostly it came down between solar and wind energy. And we decided wind energy was the most cost-effective for our location at the time.”
That government-backed pilot program- the Pantex Renewable Energy Project, or PREP, is considered a success. Within the first few months of production, the turbines towering 400 feet above the ground, were creating the equivalency of about 60 percent of the electrical needs of Pantex.
“I think it’s immensely successful. It’s the first of its kind for the DOE to do a behind the meter wind application, where we tie the wind generation directly to plant load, and basically, we proved the engineering here works. And then for viability anywhere else, it’s just the economics of whether their rates at that site justify the cost savings to doing the project," said Pantex Director of Facility Engineering Dale Moon.
The renewable side also posts some impressive numbers where they are saving 2.8 million dollars annually, the carbon footprint has diminished dramatically, equal to removing 7,800 cars from the roads or planting over 900-thousand trees.
“It’s a viable source of renewable energy. In the Panhandle, the Midwest, we proved you could put behind the meter application, and it just becomes the economics of the tariffs that you’re under and the rates you have to pay,” said
Renewable wind energy is also home to the federal government’s pilot program to use renewable energy sources at its facilities, name Pantex.
“But the first DOE facility to have renewable energy. And we know we’re by far the greatest generator because we’re generating about 60% of our energy needs, and nobody else is even close to that in the DOE,” said Papp.
The five turbines that make up the Pantex PREP project are credited with removing 35,000 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide emissions annually.