Palmdale Water District Wind Turbine Project


Courtesy of Black & Veatch Corporation

In response to the 2001 California energy crisis, Black & Veatch acted as the owner's engineer through the construction and commissioning phases of the largest net-metered wind energy project in the United States.

The California energy crisis in 2001 made headlines around the world. The country's most populous state was caught in a power delivery squeeze and was beset with runaway electricity prices and a series of rolling blackouts. California is also the fastest growing state with a population of approximately 35 million expected to swell to 50 million by 2025. The state began to call in renewable energy experts to see what could be done to ease the crisis and to help prevent its recurrence and Black & Veatch received a call.

The Palmdale Water District Wind Turbine Project was conceived from a study performed by Black & Veatch during the crisis evaluating energy cost savings options for the Palmdale Water District (PWD) in Palmdale, California. The assembled team of Black & Veatch specialists made a number of recommendations, including a 30 kW photovoltaic installation and the wind turbine project.

After completing the studies, Black & Veatch guided PWD through the multiple application processes required by the utility, evaluated bid responses, acted as the owner's engineer through the construction and commissioning phases, and now monitors the project and tracks performance.

The project involved a single Vestas 950 kW wind turbine installed at the PWD water treatment facility on the edge of Palmdale. The wind turbine connects directly to the plant's utility connection through a net metering arrangement, which allows PWD to receive close to the retail value for their energy as opposed to the much lower values received by wholesale wind generators. The project also has been able to take advantage of a state incentive program that will rebate about half the project's $2.1 million installed cost.

Based on published cost data, this project is one of the most cost-effective net metered wind projects in California. The turbine's expected annual capacity factor of 20 percent should offset all the energy consumption of the water facility and pay for the installation within 10 years. There is excellent potential for other large consumers of energy to also take advantage of on-site wind energy, both within California and elsewhere.

This project illustrates Black & Veatch's mission of Building a World of Difference in a number of ways. Runaway electricity prices have been stabilized for the water district, saving customers money. The water district is using local energy and not imported and PWD and customers have more control over their own future; they can use energy and control it to a certain degree. At the same time, Black & Veatch is helping California and the world by assisting PWD in cleaning up the air and water in the area.

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