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Texas is a leader in wind power by a country mile

The State of Texas is a long-standing leader in U.S. wind power development by a country mile, and with their 200-MW Flat Top wind farm, Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and BlackRock Real Assets are part of the reason for the continued growth.

By Paul MacDonald

The State of Texas is a long-standing leader in wind power development and production in the U.S.—by a country mile.

Texas is the number one wind power generator in the country, producing a quarter of the national total and more than 15 percent of all in-state electricity generation. In fact, if Texas were a country, it would rank fourth in the world in total wind energy generation.

New production numbers reinforce the state's leadership position, and wind power's strong continued growth. Despite the COVID-19 situation, the U.S. wind industry installed over 2,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind power capacity in the second quarter of 2020, bringing total American capacity to nearly 110,000 MW, according to the Wind Powers America Second Quarter Report 2020, from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Innergex adds to renewable projects in Texas with wind, solar projects

In the fall of 2019, Innergex Renewable Energy added to its wind generation capacity in Texas, with the Foard City wind farm, which consists of 139 GE 2.X-127 turbines located on 31,449 acres in Foard County. To date, it is the largest wind farm built by Innergex, with a total installed capacity of 350.3 MW.

"The commissioning of Foard City is an important milestone for us as it is the largest wind farm project ever built by Innergex. With three wind farms now in operation in Texas as well as one solar photovoltaic project, we have an impressive installed capacity of more than 1,000 MW in the Lone Star State," said Jean Trudel, chief investment and development officer of Innergex.

In November 2019, the company commissioned the 250-MW Phoebe solar PV farm in Winkler County. With an average annual power generation expected to be sufficient to power more than 50,000 Texan households, Phoebe was the largest solar farm in operation in Texas at the time of its commissioning. The project is sited on approximately 3,500 acres of land and is comprised of 768,000 First Solar Series 6 thin-film photovoltaic solar panels that will be operated by the panel manufacturer under a five-year operation and maintenance contract. The project also utilizes NEXTracker NX Horizon horizontal single-axis balanced-mass trackers and Power Electronics, model HEM 3000 inverters.

"This has been a big year for Innergex in Texas and for our development in the U.S.," said Michel Letellier, president and CEO of Innergex. "When we first announced the Phoebe project acquisition back in 2018, we had a goal to reach a net total installed capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020, but our impressive growth over the past two years has been such that it enabled us to achieve and even surpass our objectives earlier than expected."

The company had a total net installed capacity of 2,588 MW at the end of 2019.

The total output from the Phoebe solar project will be sold to the ERCOT power grid, and 89 percent of the energy produced will receive a fixed price under a 12-year power purchase agreement with Shell Energy North America. The remainder of the project's output will receive a merchant market price.

First Solar was the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the Phoebe solar project.

Texas-based 7X Energy originally developed and owned the project, but in late 2016, 7X sold the project to Longroad Energy and stayed on as a joint developer, successfully bringing Phoebe Solar to the start of construction. Innergex acquired the project from Longroad Energy in July 2018. Longroad Energy continued to assist Innergex Renewable Energy in the construction management of the solar farm.

 
  

Fourteen new wind projects totaling 2,546 MW became operational across nine states during the second quarter, enough to power 860,000 American homes and setting a record for second quarter additions—and Texas led the country with 810 MW of new wind projects installed. Texas leads all states, with 16 percent of the total wind power project development pipeline. The state actually set an individual record for annual wind power additions, adding nearly 4,000 MW of new wind projects during 2019.

The success of wind power in Texas is the result of strong leadership focused on diversifying the state's electricity supply for the future, while taking advantage of one of the state's most abundant resources—wind.

And the politically red state of Texas is about to go green this year—in 2020 more electricity will come from wind than coal, according to energy consulting firm Rystad Energy.

"Our forecasts suggest that onshore wind in Texas will generate about 87 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity by 2020, versus the anticipated 84.4 TWh from coal," says Carlos Torres-Diaz, head of gas market research at Rystad Energy. "Texas is just one of many red states that have recently 'gone green' by harnessing their great wind generation potential."

That would mean that almost eight million homes in Texas could be powered solely by wind.

Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and BlackRock Real Assets are part of the reason for the continued growth of wind power in Texas, with their 200-MW Flat Top wind farm located near the town of Priddy, Texas. Innergex has a 51 percent interest in the wind farm. A fund managed by BlackRock Real Assets owns the remaining 49 percent.The project comes at a time when climate change is an increasingly important priority.

"Innergex is proud to continue its core mission with the commissioning of another reliable, affordable, clean, and renewable energy facility that will play a part in addressing global climate change," said Michel Letellier, president and CEO of Innergex. The Flat Top wind farm is a significant milestone in the company's strategy as it aims to increase its presence in the U.S., where it intends to bring more high-quality projects online in the near future, he added.

For BlackRock, the investment comes as the firm is looking to invest more in renewable energy.

Flat Top demonstrates BlackRock's continued focus on renewable power investments, said David Giordano, head of BlackRock Renewable Power Americas.


"We continue to see the U.S. as an attractive market for wind assets where BlackRock has invested in more than 30 wind and solar projects," said Giordano.

Since 2011, BlackRock says it has directed $5.5 billion into more than 250 wind and solar projects around the world. In 2019, BlackRock raised $1 billion for wind, solar, and battery-storage projects. The company's move to invest more in renewable power is significant, simply because of its size: BlackRock is the world›s largest asset manager, with a staggering $7.4 trillion in assets under management as of early 2020.

Flat Top Wind's majority owner, Innergex Renewable Energy, develops, acquires, owns, and operates wind farms, solar projects, run-of-river hydroelectric facilities, and geothermal power generation plants.

As a global player in the renewable energy sector, Innergex has operations in Canada, the United States, France, and Iceland.

 
 The Flat Top wind farm, located in central Texas, consists of 100 Vestas V110 wind turbines that will be operated by Vestas under a 10-year operation and maintenance contract. The wind farm sells 100 percent of its output to the ERCOT power grid.
  

Innergex manages a large portfolio of assets, currently consisting of interests in 64 operating facilities with an aggregate net installed capacity of 1,604 MW, including 34 hydroelectric facilities, 25 wind farms, three solar farms, and two geothermal facilities. It also has prospective projects at different stages of development with an aggregate net capacity totaling 8,530 MW.

Innergex Renewable Energy acquired the Flat Top wind project for $1.1 billion through the company's acquisition of Alterra Power in 2018. Innergex's acquisition of Alterrra immediately added 485 MW of high-quality renewable energy assets, in operation and under construction, to the Innergex portfolio. The acquisition also brought Innergex an extensive pipeline of prospective projects in preliminary stages or in progress—including Flat Top Wind—with an estimated net capacity of more than 5,000 MW.

The Flat Top wind farm, located in central Texas, consists of 100 Vestas V110 wind turbines that will be operated by Vestas under a 10-year operation and maintenance contract. The wind farm sells 100 percent of its output to the ERCOT power grid, with the power price fixed on the majority of its revenue under a 13-year commodity hedge agreement with Citigroup Energy Inc.

Subsidiaries of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Citi completed a $211.3 million tax equity financing of the project, proceeds of which were used primarily to retire the project's construction loan.

The Flat Top wind project was built by Blattner Energy Inc. The project's 100 turbines are connected to a 345 kV substation located near the center of the project that transmits the energy over a 20 km-long 345 kV transmission line to the Corn Trail interconnection substation, owned by utility company Oncor.

Quebec-based Innergex has found fertile conditions for wind power development in Texas.

"Through our work on the Foard City wind project, we feel that Texas is generally a good wind resource, and the location of the Flat Top project specifically has great wind characteristics as it is located on a series of elevated ridges," said Karine Vachon, director of communications for Innergex. (See sidebar story on the company's Foard City wind project on page 32.)

While Innergex does not construct its wind projects, the company gets involved early and is engaged with the local communities where the projects are located.

"We find that significant early planning, detailed clarification of the scope of work, engagement of local contractors, and frequent interactions with the landowners, the local community, and local officials typically lead to a more successfulproject result," said Vachon.

"We are also present on the ground during construction to ensure that timetables are being adhered to, regulations followed, and to quickly resolve any concerns that arise with the contractor, landowners, or local community." She noted that last year the company completed the 350-MW Foard City wind project and a 250-MW solar project, both in Texas, and Innergex continues to pursue development opportunities in wind, solar, and storage across the U.S.

Innergex is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. As an independent renewable power producer which develops, acquires, owns, and operates renewable energy projects, Innergex brings a wealth of power project experience with its decades in the business and operations in multiple areas of renewable energy, says the company.

"We bring a flexible and creative aspect to development projects based on years of experience and a highly skilled and passionate team," said Vachon. "Developing, building, and operating all three resources gives us a good perspective on how to maximize efficiency to optimize a project's potential."

 


Summer 2020