Boone's Inspiration: Babcock & Brown Expands Texas Wind

When T. Boone Pickens has touted wind as the way of the future, he has referred to the Sweetwater Wind Farm as a great model that shows “what can happen up through the wind corridor.” The Sweetwater farm, at 585 megawatts, is one of the largest in the country and is owned and operated by Babcock & Brown, an Australian investment firm and wind energy vet. But B&B has plans for 1,000 megawatts of new wind energy capacity in west Texas, which could give Pickens a run for the world’s largest wind farm — just yesterday, B&B announced it had finalized financing and started construction on a 79.5 megawatt Majestic Wind Farm near Panhandle, Texas.

While Pickens has spent millions buying headlines for his wind-powered Pickens Plan, B&B has quite a head-start. The company currently has five wind farms under construction, three of which are in Texas, with a total of 567.5 megawatts of capacity and a price tag of over $1 billion. When those projects are completed, B&B will own or manage 25 wind farms in the U.S. with a capacity of over 2,000 megawatts. The Majestic farm, scheduled for completion this year, is just down the road from Picken’s proposed 4,000 megawatt farm in Pampa, Texas. Will the farms share transmission access?

Both Pickens and B&B have been working with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) — the body in charge of figuring how to connect the rich wind energy resources of west Texas to the power-thirsty urban centers in the east. Based on ERCOT’s report, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has selected a plan that is estimated to cost $4.93 billion and will accommodate 18,456 megawatts of wind power, plenty of space for many wind developers.

Now PUC is reviewing bids from transmission companies. B&B’s affiliate Tejas Transmission has proposed to plan, finance and construct approximately $1 billion worth of transmission lines. Pickens, meanwhile, has been pulling political strings for his $2 billion transmission proposal bundled with a $1.5 billion water pipeline.

B&B has already secured grid access for the Majestic projects on the existing SPP transmission grid to supply power to the Panhandle region. The company says that development of the 1,000 megawatt Panhandle Wind Project is ongoing and plans to have it coincide with the ERCOT transmission project. PUC is expected to designate transmission providers by late 2008.

Image courtesy of Babcock & Brown.

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