Q. Where is Trent Wind Farm located?
Wind Generation Technology and Siting
Q. What kind of wind turbine is AEP using at the Trent Mesa project?
A. Trent Wind Farm is located on Trent Mesa (a mesa is a flattop hill) in West Texas just south of Interstate 20 about 30 miles west of Abilene and 10 miles east of Sweetwater (off I-20 on Adrian Road). The majority of the current project lies in Nolan County, although the mesa is in both Taylor and Nolan Counties.
A. Trent Wind Farm has a production capacity of 150 megawatts (150,000 kilowatts), enough power to supply 35,000 homes.
A. American Electric Power (AEP) oversaw construction, owns and is responsible for operations at the Trent Mesa project.
A. AEP is responsible for the operation of the wind farm but has contracted with GE Wind Energy, the turbine manufacturer, for operation and maintenance services.
A. The site is near a power transmission network. AEP built a short transmission line to the Eskota Substation, and from there, the power generated at Trent Wind Farm moves across the state's transmission network throughout the ERCOT system.
A. The American Wind Energy Association says, “Over the last 20 years, the cost of electricity from utility-scale wind systems has dropped by more than 80%. In the early 1980s, when the first utility-scale turbines were installed, wind-generated electricity cost as much as 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Now, state-of-the-art wind power plants can generate electricity for less than 5 cents/kWh in many parts of the U.S., a price that is competitive with new coal- or gas-fired power plants. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with the wind industry to develop a next generation of wind turbine technology. The products from this program are expected to generate electricity at prices that will be lower still.”
Wind Generation Technology and Siting
A. AEP is using 100 turbines from GE Wind Energy rated at 1.5 megawatts (1,500 kilowatts) each.
A. The turbines generally begin to produce electricity in wind speeds as low as 8 miles per hour and they shut themselves down in wind speeds over 56 mph.
A. Single-pole, tubular-steel towers approximately 200 feet tall are used for the project.
A. The project includes 14 sections (a section is a one mile square of land) that it can use to generate wind power.
A. The 14 sections of land at the Trent Mesa site are either owned by AEP or on a long-term lease to AEP.
A. AEP first began monitoring wind at Trent Mesa in 1993 and determined that it was a commercially viable site in 1998.
A. AEP is a pioneer in wind power research. In 1995, the company built the first utility-scale wind farm in Texas, located in far West Texas near Fort Davis (a research project that was retired in early 2004 after providing valuable information and experience in dealing with wind power technologies). The company also identified the site for the 75-MW Southwest Mesa wind farm. Southwest Mesa was the first wind power project in the same area where AEP’ s Desert Sky Wind Farm is located. AEP owns the majority of the property at the site and the former retail affiliates of AEP purchase all of Southwest Mesa's wind power output from NextEra, the company that owns and operates the turbines. In addition to Trent Wind Farm, AEP also owns the 160.5-megawatt (160,500-kilowatt) Desert Sky Wind Farm in Pecos County, Texas.
A. Yes, AEP did extensive site evaluation at the Trent Mesa location. There was no evidence that a wind generation facility would significantly impact the natural environment in the area. There was also an archaeological study performed. Sensitive areas were identified and were protected during construction.
A. Our experience at our research facility showed that bird kills are unusual. Trent Wind Farm is not located in bird flyways, and its use of tubular steel poles (instead of lattice towers) and underground electric lines on top of the mesa wherever possible (instead of overhead) minimizes the potential for birds coming in contact with the wind turbines. The American Wind Energy Association (see environmental section of Frequently Asked Questions) says, “Birds and bats occasionally collide with wind turbines, as they do with other tall structures such as buildings. Avian deaths have become a concern at Altamont Pass in California, which is an area of extensive wind development and also high year-round raptor use. Detailed studies, and monitoring following construction, at other wind development areas indicate that this is a site-specific issue that will not be a problem at most potential wind sites. Also, wind's overall impact on birds is low compared with other human-related sources of avian mortality … No matter how extensively wind is developed in the future, bird deaths from wind energy are unlikely to ever reach as high as 1% of those from other human-related sources such as hunters, house cats, buildings, and autos. (House cats, for example, are believed to kill 1 billion birds annually in the U.S. alone.) Wind is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket. Still, areas that are commonly used by threatened or endangered bird species should be regarded as unsuitable for wind development. The wind industry is working with environmental groups, federal regulators, and other interested parties to develop methods of measuring and mitigating wind energy's effect on birds.”
A. There is a "swishing sound" associated with wind generators, but with new turbine technologies, noise has been reduced as compared to older turbines. The Trent Mesa site is in a rural setting some distance from homes. Our experience is that native and farm animals are not bothered by the noise from wind projects. The American Wind Energy Association has the following to say about noise, "Large, modern wind turbines have become very quiet. At distances above 200 meters, the swishing sound of rotor blades is usually masked completely by wind noise in the leaves of trees or shrubs."
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