Last May, Siemens Government Technologies was awarded a contract by the National Nuclear Security Administration to build an 11.5 MW wind farm in Texas. The wind farm itself is expected to be operational by next year, and its purpose is to provide energy to the Pantex nuclear weapons facility, located in Amarillo, Texas, which is considered as one of the most important government facilities in the country. The actual wind farm itself will be constructed in the Texas panhandle, and will consist of five two-point-three megawatt turbines, which will increase the already substantial amount of wind energy that Texas produces annually.
It’s also worth mentioning that most of Texas’ wind farms are located in Western areas, where abundant amounts of land as well as consistently strong wind currents make the area suitable for such facilities. It’s worth mentioning that the Pantex nuclear facility has been around since the 1950’s and is the country’s only facility that handles the assembly and dis-assembly of nuclear weapons. These days, the facility is used by the NNSA to manage most of the nation’s existing nuclear stockpile, and also to comply with nonproliferation treaties which are presently in place all throughout the world.
Due to the sensitive nature of nuclear weapons assembly and dis-assembly, Siemens Government Technologies will also have to consider the compatibility of this new wind farm with the needs of the facility and, at the same time, factor in the intermittent nature of wind energy. Presently, it is expected that the wind energy generated by the project will supply about two thirds of Pantex’s energy needs. Despite such challenges, however, expectations are positive the project will give rise to better results in the foreseeable future.
Most of the project’s funding will come from an ESPC (Energy Savings Performance Contract). This method of financing will cause Siemens to shoulder the upfront costs for the project, as the government pays them over time from the amount of money that they will save through the project.
Recent estimates indicate that the upcoming wind farm will allow the Pantex facility to save around $2.9 million yearly. However, although the financial benefits are certainly worth noticing, the real value behind Texas’ latest investment in wind energy is that it has expanded the feasibility of using alternative energy in sustaining large scale energy consumption. Although it’s true that the upcoming wind farm will not supply 100% of Pantex’s energy needs, the fact that it is expected to carry a large proportion of the facility’s Commercial Energy needs means that a similar method or project may be used for other facilities throughout Texas and perhaps even the rest of the country. .
Thus far, wind energy has always produced too little in the way of EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested) for them to be considered as practical alternatives to fossil fuels and conventional hydrocarbons. If, however, the wind farm at Amarillo becomes a success, it will become a significant milestone, one that will allow new wind farms to supply the electrical needs of large government facilities in the foreseeable future.