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§ 1.04 Wind Farm Fundamentals
The first step in constructing a Texas wind farm is the development phase. During this period, the wind farm developer obtains leases of the land for the potential wind farm. The amount of land will depend on terrain characteristics as well as the size of wind farm contemplated by the developer. In order to avoid array loss, the turbines are usually spaced at least 250 meters apart with 750 meters between rows. Additionally, to maximize energy output the turbine rows are placed perpendicular to the prevailing wind flow. Typically, a developer requires 60 acres for each megawatt of installed capacity, which is equal to about 11 megawatts per section. Although a developer (like an oil and gas lessee) may lease an extensive amount of land for a wind farm, in fact only about five percent of the land is actually used for the wind development, leaving the remaining land to be used for ranching, farming, and other landowner uses.
In addition to leasing land, the developer must measure the wind at the potential site by erecting one or more 50- to 60-meter test towers. Instruments on the towers collect wind speed and direction as well as temperature and barometric pressure. After at least 12 months of data collection, meteorologists provide an assessment of the strength and consistency of the wind at the particular site. This wind resource report typically will correlate the data collected with information from other long-term reporting stations, which allows the experts to extrapolate the wind capacity of the site over a long period. The expert report will provide an estimate of how much wind energy may be expected to be produced at the site using turbines of a specific size at designated locations. It may also assign an estimated capacity factor for the site. Capacity factor is the estimated actual energy production of the wind farm compared to the amount of annual energy production if the wind farm had operated at maximum output 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
During the development period, environmental studies are also performed. In Texas, these include a four-season avian study, a wetland jurisdictional review, a Phase One environmental site assessment, and a cultural resource analysis. Easements are obtained so that the developer can erect a tap-in line from the wind farm substation to the grid interconnection point. Extensive studies are also conducted which analyze the effect of the wind farm on the electrical grid and the infrastructural improvements that must be made to the grid to accommodate the wind farm.
At the same time, the developer seeks property tax abatements for the project from the county, schools and other taxing entities. There are also assessments of the impact of the wind farm operation on civilian and military flight operations in order to obtain a “no hazard determination” by the Federal Aviation Administration for each turbine location.
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