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EDF partners up in Texas

The Longhorn wind project in Texas, part of EDF Renewable Energy's energetic build-out in North America, involved construction partners such as RES Americas and Rosendin Electric, who had to deal with some tough weather conditions during the project.

By Tony Kryzanowski

EDF Renewable Energy has shown its skill at developing partnerships while advancing its North American renewable energy portfolio at breakneck speed. It recently passed the one gigawatt wind power production milestone in Texas, with plans to develop even more wind power in the Lone Star State.

One important partnership that EDF Renewable Energy has developed is with BlackRock Infrastructure, the world's largest investment manager, with more than $4.5 trillion of assets under management throughout the world. Of those assets, over $1.5 billion are in renewable power, making BlackRock a major investor in this sector. Wind power represents more than one-third of that total investment.

EDF Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of France-based EDF Energies Nouvelles, has completed six wind projects in partnership with BlackRock Infrastructure. Since 2013, EDF has sold a 40 percent stake to BlackRock in the 100.8-megawatt (MW) Spearville 3 project in Kansas and a 50 percent stake in Texas in the 200-MW Longhorn project, the 195-MW Spinning Spur 3 project, and the 200-MW Hereford project, as well as two projects in New Mexico, the 250-MW Roosevelt project and the 49.65-MW Milo project.

"Those partial sell-downs are an integral part of our divestiture business line," says Raphael Declercq, vice president, portfolio strategy at EDF Renewable Energy. "During the past three years, we have placed into service 3.1 GWs, and over the same period of time, we sold stakes equivalent to approximately 1.3 GW of net capacity."

The 200-MW Longhorn wind project in Texas spans 33,000 acres and consists of 100 Vestas V-100 wind turbines, each capable of two MWs of power output. The project is located in both Floyd and Briscoe counties and represents a big piece of the puzzle that makes up the entire package EDF Renewable Energy has developed with BlackRock.

"The North American renewable infrastructure market presents tremendous opportunity for our clients," says David Giordano, head of the North American Renewable Infrastructure team at BlackRock Infrastructure. "This project is a good example of the growing set of investment opportunities in U.S. infrastructure."

The Longhorn wind project also represents development of a new partnership between EDF Renewable Energy and Renewable Energy Systems (RES), another prominent name in renewable power development and production. RES is a long-time global renewable energy developer, constructor, and operator with a number of renewable power projects in both North America and Europe. It has considerable experience developing wind power in Texas-Longhorn was the company's 18th completed project in the state. It was EDF Renewable Energy's fifth project in Texas within the span of only three years.


RES, the original Longhorn wind farm developer, began to lease land for the project in 2007. The initial project was designed for 360 MW, based on off-take ability at that time. EDF acquired the project from RES in fall 2013. After the acquisition, RES continued as the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the project.

"Texas, as a whole, is friendly to wind, has low taxes, low permitting requirements, and a friendly interconnection process that encourages wind development across the state," says Jason Zingerman, senior vice president, construction, at RES Americas. He oversaw construction of the Longhorn wind project.

Considered a midsize wind farm, the Longhorn wind project generates enough power for 55,000 homes and avoids approximately 375,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That's equal to the annual emissions from about 80,000 passenger vehicles.

Zingerman says the Longhorn wind project was the first of many projects constructed or currently under development in Floyd and Briscoe counties, adding that the project was 100 percent dependent on being able to connect to the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission infrastructure.

There are five CREZ zones in Texas managed by the state's Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Recognizing that the state had a superior wind resource for the potential generation of power, but little-to-no transmission infrastructure to take advantage of where the best wind resources were available, the PUC held a successful competition that triggered a significant transmission line build-out to areas poorly served, resulting in projects like the Longhorn wind project.

 Designed for 360 MW, the Longhorn wind project has been built to produce 200 MW. But there is the potential for an expansion, as the project's location is ideal for developing further wind power.

According to Zingerman, the critical piece of the Longhorn puzzle insofar as making tie-in possible was the Tule Canyon Switch Station constructed by Sharyland Utilities, about 12 miles from the project area. One of the project's challenges was to secure the required right-of-way for interconnection.

RES performed the site preparation, civil and electrical collection system design, medium-voltage collection construction, and turbine erection on the Longhorn wind project. Nelson Engineering performed the turbine foundation construction, Vestas provided the turbines, JMS performed the turbine electrical wiring, and Rosendin Electric performed the substation construction.

Zingerman says RES planned for what could be expected in advance, and despite the weather challenges, the project was completed on time.

"The main challenge was continuing construction through seasonal weather changes including the winter and a very wet spring," says Zingerman. "RES also had to work around high wind periods, which involved bringing crane and turbine erection crews in at all hours of the day to work within low wind periods that allowed for safe construction."

Designed for 360 MW, the project was eventually built to produce only 200 MW, but Zingerman says there is the potential for a project expansion, adding that the project's location is ideal for developing wind power. "The project area is in fact perfect for wind with a high wind resource and a flat surface unencumbered for many, many miles," he says.

Wind power development like the Longhorn project has brought new economic activity to this area of Texas where raising cotton and ranching have been the main economic drivers. The wind turbines are located on leased land, with land owners receiving an annual payment. Even with the wind turbines located on these private properties, landowners can continue to use the land for farming and grazing purposes.

The 200-MW Longhorn wind project in Texas spans 33,000 acres and has 100 Vestas V-100 wind turbines. EDF Renewable Energy has a master supply agreement with Vestas, which has resulted in two GW of Vestas wind turbines being installed throughout the U.S. 

During construction peak, there were about 250 workers on the jobsite, and 14 permanent operations and maintenance jobs were created once the project went online. During construction, RES estimates that about $3.5 million was spent in local communities.

"Landowners and community leaders strongly supported the project," says Zingerman.

Vestas, which had already supplied nine projects in Texas, won the wind turbine order for both EDF's Longhorn and Hereford 1 projects. On the EDF projects, Vestas supplied a total of 150 units of its V100-2MW turbine. Reflecting on the effect that renewable energy development is having on the North American economy, Vestas said that winning the order would definitely have a positive impact on further job creation.

"This order will help to create more American jobs at our blade, tower, and nacelle factories in Colorado," said Chris Brown, president of Vestas' sales and service division in the U.S. and Canada. Jobs were added at the company's blade factory in Windsor as well as its blade and nacelle factories in Brighton.

These contracts included Vestas' Active Output Management 5000 service agreement for at least three years. It is an energy-based availability guarantee that ensures the turbines are operational when the wind is blowing. The company's surveillance system remotely controls and monitors the turbines and predicts potential wear-and-tear issues. Vestas says this allows for maintenance planning so the turbines operate with minimal lost production.

Another example of EDF Renewable Energy's expertise in establishing partnerships is the signing of a master supply agreement with Vestas in 2013, which has resulted in two GW of Vestas wind turbines installed throughout the U.S. The companies have entered into a second master supply agreement, covering 2016 to 2019.

One of EDF's most recent partnerships is with Procter & Gamble (P&G) to help this iconic company green its image. Procter & Gamble has agreed to purchase 80 percent of the wind power produced from EDF's Tyler Bluff Wind Project in Cooke County, Texas, to provide 100 percent of its power requirements at the company's North American fabric and homecare plants.

P&G is a signatory of the 'American Business Act on Climate Pledge.' As part of the pledge, P&G agreed to achieve 30 percent renewable energy for powering its plants globally by 2020, with a long-term vision to use 100 percent renewable energy. This comes on the heels of an announcement where P&G committed to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

"It is incredible that the [Tyler Bluff] wind farm will generate enough electricity for all of our P&G fabric and homecare plants," says Shailesh Jejurikar, P&G's North America Fabric Care president. "To put that in context, this is enough electricity to wash a million loads of laundry."