On June 27, Texas-based utility Austin Energy got the go-ahead from the Austin City Council to enter into three new wind power purchase agreements (PPAs) totaling 570 MW. Even with a short-term wind contract expiring in 2015, Austin Energy says this will bring the company's total wind portfolio to 1,225 MW and puts the utility four years ahead of schedule for meeting its 35% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS).
Two contracts with Duke Energy Renewables Inc., each for 200 MW, will buy power generated in Starr County in the Rio Grande Valley about 30 miles northwest of McAllen. The Los Vientos 3 wind project is expected to be online at the end of 2014, and Los Vientos 4 is expected to be complete by mid-2016.
The third contract buys 170 MW of generation from E.ON Climate and Renewables North America LLC, in Nueces County. The Patriot Wind project, located 25 miles southwest of Corpus Christi, is expected to be online by the end of 2014.
These projects have terms up to 25 years and fixed pricing between $23/MWh and $33/MWh. Austin Energy says the contracted prices are comparable to wind pricing 10+ years ago and are also competitive with natural gas generation.
"This is a very attractive time for Austin Energy to invest in more wind energy," says Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis. "The extension of federal production tax credits (PTCs) for wind developers, combined with the recent decline in power prices and lower demand for new wind generation, means we are able to keep costs down while expanding our renewable portfolio to meet our goals ahead of schedule."
Austin Energy's other utility-scale renewable energy resources are a 100 MW biomass plant in Nacogdoches and a 30 MW solar farm in Webberville. An additional 11.7 MW is generated from solar installations on public and privately owned properties in the Austin Energy service area. Austin Energy has a goal to include another 200 MW of solar energy in its renewable portfolio by 2020. Currently, about 27% of the utility's energy comes from renewable resources.
Editor's note: For more on the Texas wind energy market, including the nearly-completed CREZ lines, click here.