Environmentally Friendly Nuclear Weapon Testing

Recently, Siemens won a large Energy Savings Peformance government contract from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  The NNSA was established in 2000, but it is an entity of the U.S. Department of Energy. The NNSA’s main function is to manage the US’s nuclear weapon stockpile, nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactor programs.

NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart stated: “Three years of hard, dedication, and determination have paid off. The NNSA’s goal was to turn Texas wind into energy, and we have overcome numerous hurdles in implementing the contracting strategy.”

The contract outlines a plan to build and operate the biggest U.S. government wind farm to date; the wind farm will boast at least five 2.3-megawatt turbines.

The wind farm is named Pantex after the Pantex nuclear facility nearby, used for nuclear weapon testing. The U.S. government wind farm will provide 60% of the nuclear facility’s annual electricity needs. Pantex will end up saving an average of $2.9 million over the twenty-year contract. The contract will be paid for through these savings.

This is being done, in part, because of President Obama’s green energy initiatives. The NNSA will be able to meet a fair amount of its renewable energy goals by utilizing the Pantex wind farm to power its nuclear facility. The farm is being placed in Amarillo, Texas, a region known for strong winds.

The farm also just so happens to be near the NNSA’s education partner, Texas Tech University. Texas Tech will be conducting research for the U.S. Department of Energy at the Pantex wind farm. Texas Tech will specifically be testing a new type of wind turbine testing facility: Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT).

SWiFT will help wind farms to perform more efficiently by reducing the amount of power loss from turbine-to-turbine interaction, a common occurrence called “shadowing.” Shadowing is caused by wind wakes that are complex and difficult to study, but they are the main contributor to power loss on wind farms.

The U.S. Department of Energy-owned Pantex nuclear facility will also being doing research of its own, except the research is related to nuclear weapon security and nuclear emergency response missions. The nuclear facility is additionally testing the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons. While that may not seem like the greenest thing to do on our soil, Pantex is testing them without detonating them so as not to harm the environment. This federal contract is both green and military.

“As a world leader in the wind industry, Siemens will bring reliable, secure, renewable energy to the critical mission at the NNSA Pantex plant. Mission execution and guaranteed savings are Siemens hallmarks in the federal market and we look forward to delivering both for the NNSA on this landmark project,” says Judy Marks, the president and CEO of Siemens.

Usually, the government would be wary about putting a wind farm so near a government facility, especially a nuclear weapon testing facility. The reason is that wind turbines have been known to cause interference with radar and other communication devices. A company named Aveillant, though, has come out with a brand new holographic radar system that is able to distinguish whirring blades from communication signals.

The wind farm is set to start production next month (December 2013).

Jeremy Higbee is a freelance writer currently disseminating info about government technology news on government contracts, bid opportunities, and small business marketing strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @JeremyHigbee1.

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