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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says that an 11.5 MW wind project located near the Pantex nuclear weapons stockpile facility has officially broken ground.

The wind farm, which the DOE calls the nation's largest federally owned wind project, will power more than 60% of the plant. The Pantex Plant is the primary site for the assembly, disassembly and maintenance of the U.S.’ nuclear weapons stockpile.

The five-turbine project, located on 1,500 acres east of the Pantex Plant, will generate approximately 47 million kWh of electricity annually supplying more than 60% of the annual electricity used for Pantex. The project is expected to complete construction and start generating electricity in summer 2014.

According to the DOE, Siemens will construct the wind farm under a performance-based contract that uses long-term energy savings to pay for the project costs, avoiding upfront costs to taxpayers.

The DOE says the project will help the federal government consume 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 - more than double the current goal of 7.5%. In 2011, President Obama challenged federal agencies to enter into $2 billion worth of performance-based contracts within two years. Federal agencies have since committed to a pipeline of nearly $2.3 billion from over 300 reported projects, including the Pantex wind project.

"As the largest energy user in the country, the federal government has a tremendous opportunity to lead by example in taking actions to improve energy efficiency and increase renewable energy usage to save taxpayers dollars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," says Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of energy. "Responsible development of America’s wind energy resources is a critical part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy, and the Pantex wind project furthers our commitment to lead by example and to advance a cleaner, more sustainable energy future."

The Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration worked with interagency partners, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as Texas Tech University, to launch this project.

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