EWEB Adds to Wind Powerby Susan Palmer
The Register-Guard, December 26, 2009
The new source of renewable energy from turbines in Washington brings the utility closer to its goal
The Eugene Water & Electric Board's power supply just got a bit greener.
The publicly owned utility, in cooperation with several other Pacific Northwest utilities, has brought a new batch of wind turbines online. Beginning last week, Harvest Wind began generating electricity from a bank of 43 turbines east of Goldendale, Wash., and a few miles north of the Columbia River.
EWEB owns 20 percent of the $220 million project. The 43 turbines collectively can generate almost 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 27,000 homes, EWEB spokesman Joe Harwood said. EWEB will sell its share of the output on the commercial market.
EWEB's stake brings its wind generation maximum output capacity to almost 80 megawatts. The utility also owns a share in a wind farm in Wyoming and has contracts to buy electricity from farms in Central Oregon and Eastern Washington.
This new source of renewable energy brings EWEB's green portfolio to 14 percent of its total energy load, Harwood said.
State law requires the utility to provide 25 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. EWEB is on track to meet that goal before the deadline, Harwood said. Upcoming renewable projects include a wood-fired electricity generator that Seneca Sawmill plans to build in north Eugene. The mill will sell the power to EWEB. The utility also has plans to invest in a geothermal project in Idaho, but it is waiting for credit markets to open up more before pursuing it, Harwood said.
Electricity from wind farms fluctuates based on the amount of wind blowing, but EWEB can compensate for that with its power-generating dams on the McKenzie River, Harwood said. "If the windmills aren't turning, we can rely on a peaking facility like Carmen Smith," he said.
Despite all the diversification, EWEB still buys the majority of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration's network of dams.
EWEB customers who want to financially support EWEB's move into wind power have the choice of paying a little extra to buy wind-generated electricity. Wind-generated electricity costs about 1 cent more per kilowatt hour than EWEB's standard power rates. The money raised goes to develop more renewable projects, Harwood said.
About 2,100 EWEB customers currently purchase green power.
"They're voting with their pocketbooks to support renewable energy," he said.
Harvest Wind cost $220 million, about $30 million less than originally estimated, Harwood said. Timing was responsible for those savings. Construction began in 2007 during a high point in demand for construction materials such as steel and aluminum and with labor costs running high, Harwood said. Costs came down as the recession hit, and contingency funds set aside for unexpected problems did not get used up, he said.
EWEB paid $44 million, sharing the cost with Cowlitz Public Utility District, Peninsula Light and Lakeview Green Energy.
Power generated by Harvest Wind will be delivered to the BPA's transmission grid for south-central Washington. EWEB initially plans to sell its share of the output on the wholesale market, and in later years will use the output to supply its own customers.
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