FAQs

Below are some questions and answers related to the Desert Sky wind generation project in West Texas.

General Questions

Q. Where is The Desert Sky Wind Farm®located?
Q. How much power does the wind farm produce?
Q. Who receives the power from the Desert Sky Wind Farm®.
Q. Why did CPS Energy choose wind power?
Q. When was The Desert Sky Wind Farm®built?
Q. Who operates the Desert Sky facility?
Q. How does power move from the wind turbines at the site to CPS customers?
Q. How does the cost of a KWH from a wind generator compare with traditional methods of generating power?
Q. Has the project had other names?

wind turbine

 

Wind Generation Technology and Siting

Q. What kind of wind turbine is AEP using at the Desert Sky Wind Farm®.
Q. How much wind does it take to make power at the site?
Q. On what kind of tower are the turbines mounted?
Q. How much land is used for this project?
Q. Who owns the land where the Desert Sky project is located?
Q. How long did AEP study the Desert Sky wind site before it decided it was a commercially viable location?
Q. How much experience does AEP have with wind generation?

Environmental

Q. Has AEP, CPS or GE Wind Energy done studies to evaluate the impact of this project?
Q. Are bird kills a problem at wind generation sites?
Q. Are wind turbines noisy?


General Questions

Q. Where is The Desert Sky Wind Farm®located?

A. Desert Sky is on the Indian Mesa (a mesa is a flattop hill) in West Texas just north of Interstate 10 about 45 miles east of Fort Stockton and 12 miles northwest of Iraan (off US Highway 190). The wind farm is in Pecos County.

Q. How much power does the wind farm produce?

A. The Desert Sky Wind Farm®has a power generation capacity of 160.5 megawatts (160,500 kilowatts), enough to supply about 40,000 average American homes.

Q. Who receives the power from the Desert Sky Wind Farm®.

A. CPS Energy (formerly City Public Service of San Antonio) is buying all the power produced at the wind farm under long-term contracts with AEP. The agreements began in 2002 and continue for 15 years.

Q. Why did CPS Energy choose wind power?

A. CPS Energy continues to enhance its use of renewable energy, and wind provides an ideal source of power. It has minimal environmental impact and is a renewable resource.

Q. When was The Desert Sky Wind Farm®built?

A. Enron Wind (now GE Wind Energy) developed the project, with initial groundbreaking in November 2000 and project completion in December 2001. AEP purchased the project in December 2001.

Q. Who operates the Desert Sky facility?

A. GE Wind Energy has an operations and maintenance agreement with AEP and operates the facility under the direction of AEP.

Q. How does power move from the wind turbines at the site to CPS customers?

A. Power from the site flows through the power transmission network in West Texas to CPS customers in the San Antonio area.

Q. How does the cost of a KWH from a wind generator compare with traditional methods of generating power?

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.”

Q. Has the project had other names?

A. Yes, it was previously known as Indian Mesa and Clear Sky but was officially named Desert Sky Wind Farm after AEP purchased the project in December 2001.

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Wind Generation Technology and Siting

Q. What kind of wind turbine is AEP using at the Desert Sky Wind Farm®.

A. AEP is using 107 turbines from GE Wind Energy rated at 1.5 megawatts (1,500 kilowatts) each.

Q. How much wind does it take to make power at the site?

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.

Q. On what kind of tower are the turbines mounted?

A. Single-pole, tubular-steel towers approximately 200 feet tall are used for the project.

Q. How much land is used for this project?

A. AEP uses 15 sections (a section is a one mile square of land) of land to generate wind power at the Desert Sky site.

Q. Who owns the land where the Desert Sky project is located?

A. The 15 sections of land at the Desert Sky site are on long-term lease to AEP.

Q. How long did AEP study the Desert Sky wind site before it decided it was a commercially viable location?

A. AEP reviewed extensive data gathered by GE Wind Energy (formerly Enron Wind) before purchasing the facility in December 2001.

Q. How much experience does AEP have with wind generation?

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 Desert Sky 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 FPL, the company that owns and operates the turbines. (See more on Southwest Mesa.) In addition to Desert Sky, AEP built, owns and oversees the operation of the 150-megawatt (150,000-kilowatt) Trent Wind Farm near Abilene, Texas.

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Environmental

Q. Were studies done to evaluate the impact of this project?

A. Yes, GE Wind Energy (formerly Enron Wind) did an extensive environmental site evaluation at the Desert Sky location. There was no evidence that the 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.

Q. Are bird kills a problem at wind generation sites?

A. Our experience at our research facility showed that bird kills are unusual. Desert Sky 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.”

Q. Are wind turbines noisy?

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 Desert Sky 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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