Elida wind farm nearing completion

By Tony Parra

The wind farm near Elida is nearing completion and will be generating power to homes in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma by the beginning of 2006.

Dave Hayward, field engineer of the wind farm project construction, said 98 wind turbines have been constructed and completion of the 120 wind turbines is projected for Dec. 15. Hayward said testing has to be completed after Dec. 15 before placing the system into operation.

Xcel Energy Inc. contracted with Padoma Wind Power LLC of La Jolla, Calif., to purchase all the electricity from Padoma’s San Juan Mesa Wind Project near Elida for its first 20 years of operation.

Don Russo, a safety manager for the plant construction, said construction of the wind turbines began in July. The 120-megawatt facility was constructed mostly in Roosevelt County with some of it in Chaves County. Russo said each Mitsubishi turbine costs more than $1 million. Russo said Mitsubishi, the Japanese manufacturer, has six to eight Mitsubishi workers helping with the maintenance of the turbines during construction.

Hayward and Russo guided a group of Elida High School students through the wind farm on Tuesday to explain how the wind-turbine towers were constructed and how they work.

The $160 million San Juan Mesa wind power plant project is driven through Industrial Revenue Bonds paid through private funding. The 120-megawatt wind-powered facility will provide enough power for the average annual needs of about 41,600 homes, said Gary L. Gibson, Xcel Energy state vice president, in a press release.

Hayward said the schedule has been so hectic some workers have had construction schedules in which they work 13 days in a row and get one day off.

Some of the turbines on the wind farm on Tuesday had the base and tower constructed on them but they were missing the nacelles with the blades on the top. The towers are 226 feet tall and the foundation is 37 feet by 37 feet at the bottom. Each tower weighs 206,800 pounds and holds the nacelle, which weighs 92,850 pounds and the rotor with the blades which weigh 67,100 pounds.

Hayward said the tower section is built in El Paso, the blades in Juarez, Mexico and the Mitsubishi nacelles in Japan.

Hayward said there must be wind at a speed of at least 11 mph. According to Hayward, each nacelle has a weather station in it. The weather station triggers the rotor to switch the direction it is facing so that it does not take the full force of the wind when it is at high speeds.

Hayward said at 50 mph the blades will shut down and the towers are designed to sustain 90-mph winds. Hayward said the heart and brain of the facility is the substation. The substation relays the electricity to the switch yard which in turn sends it out to the power grid. From the power grid, the customers are able to receive energy.

“It was pretty interesting,” Vigo Torske, an Elida science teacher, said about the tour. “I was impressed with how fast they are able to put up the wind turbines. They are very efficient.”

Xcel Energy also purchases wind energy from a 1.98-MW wind facility near Texico and from 60 one-MW turbines near Tucumcari.