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Council OKs deal for wind power

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

Denton Municipal Electric announced Thursday it has finalized another major renewable energy contract, this time from a wind farm under construction near Big Lake.

The City Council approved the purchase power agreement with Invenergy Wind Development last month. DME officials would not say, however, how much wind energy they expect to buy from Invenergy’s Santa Rita Wind Energy Center with this latest agreement.

DME spokesman Brian Daskam said disclosing how much additional wind energy the city-owned utility expects to buy would put DME “at a competitive disadvantage.”

“We won’t get the best bids from other renewable energy providers if they know exactly how much of our portfolio we still have to make up,” Daskam wrote in an email.

Last year, DME announced its intention to walk away from coal-fired power, and build a quick-start, gas-fired power plant, as well as greatly increase its use of renewable energy sources.

Currently, DME gets about 45 percent of its power from NextEra’s Wolf Ridge Wind Farm near Muenster and a small power plant at the Denton landfill that burns methane produced there.

Soon, DME will also be taking a small amount of solar power from NextEra Energy Resources, which is building Bluebell Solar in Sterling County, east of Midland.

Invenergy is building a wind farm of at least 300 megawatts or larger in Reagan County. (According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average 1.5-megawatt wind turbine can produce enough electricity for about 332 homes.)

DME’s contract with Invenergy would bring more wind power to Denton in January 2019. Daskam declined to say how much DME is buying and how much closer the Invenergy contract gets DME to its goal of 70 percent renewable energy by 2019.

When the Santa Rita project was announced in 2015, area news outlets reported the project would likely be worth $240 million. Invenergy had leased 10,000 acres and was continuing to work on leasing another 40,000 acres. This year, trade publications reported the cost of the Santa Rita Wind Energy Center topping $690 million.

Meanwhile, Denton and its partner cities in the Texas Municipal Power Agency have not yet finalized the sale of the coal-fired power plant near Bryan.

“We’re still in negotiations,” said Mayor Chris Watts, who also sits on the power agency board.

Until that time, the member cities must still pay the costs of running the plant.

DME officials say the shift to renewable energy should help stabilize electric rates that have been climbing in recent years.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.