San Antonio utility signs 25-year wind power agreement

By Vicki Vaughan

CPS Energy said Monday that it has agreed to buy 200 megawatts of wind-generated electricity from a new South Texas wind farm as part of a 25-year agreement with Duke Energy Corp.

The wind power is coming from Duke’s Los Vientos I in Willacy County, about 120 miles south of Corpus Christi. The wind farm is on 30,000 acres 20 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

“Coastal wind has the potential to provide us with electric power during summer afternoon hours when energy demand is highest,” Cris Eugster, CPS’ executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer, said in a statement.

“It’s a clean generation source for our customers at a locked-in, competitive price and complements our investments last year in natural gas and solar.”

Terms of the agreement with Duke, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., were not disclosed. The wind farm went online late last month, CPS said.

The purchase boosts CPS’ total wind-energy capacity to 1,059 megawatts, helping CPS maintain its No. 1 ranking in wind-energy capacity among municipally owned utilities.

A megawatt can power 200 homes on the hottest days when air conditioners are running and about 500 homes during average conditions, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for power-grid operator ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Searcy said four wind power records were set last year, most recently on Christmas Day, when a cold front swept Texas and wind turbines generated 8,638 megawatts, an output representing almost a fourth of the grid’s system load.

“We are pleased to again be providing emissions-free power to CPS Energy, a utility widely recognized for its dedication to affordable renewables and clean technologies,” Duke Energy Renewables President Greg Wolf said in a statement.

CPS also has another power agreement with Duke’s renewable arm. It’s for solar power generated from the 14.4-megawatt Blue Wing Solar facility, which opened in 2010 on the Southeast Side.

In addition to Los Vientos I, Duke brought a second wind farm online late last year. Austin Energy is buying 202 megawatts from Los Vientos II, which is in Willacy and Cameron counties.