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Wind Farm Gives Port Gust of Business

by Bill Stewart
The Oregonian, July 13, 2005

A company that once toyed with building a turbine plant in the metro area
will send parts for a rural project through Vancouver

VANCOUVER -- Vestas Wind Technology, the Danish company that tantalized Portland and Southwest Washington with a possible plant to manufacture wind turbines in 2002, is coming back. Or at least passing through.

The company has chosen the Port of Vancouver to handle components of a new 83-unit wind farm destined for the southeast corner of Washington.

The first of 11 ships, arriving in mid-August, will be carrying towers manufactured in Vietnam and Korea. A couple of weeks later, ships will start arriving with the Vestas turbines -- generators, hubs and propeller-like blades.

"It could take 11 or 12 weeks before the last piece is on a truck headed east," Alastair Smith, Port senior marketing director, said Tuesday.

"This is known in our business as 'a project,' " said Larry Paulson, Port executive director. "We like projects because they provide unexpected jobs."

The wind farm site is on Hopkins Ridge near Dayton. The property is in Columbia County, about 30 miles northeast of Walla Walla.

The first units to arrive will be towers to hold the blades and generators. Each tower will be shipped in three sections. Of those, 22 will arrive from Korea and 38 from Vietnam. The remaining 23 towers are being fabricated in Canada and will go directly to the site.

The second wave of shipments, from Denmark, includes the turbines that will generate as much as 1.3 megawatts of power per unit. That shipment also will include the hubs, at 25 tons apiece, and the 140-foot-long blades.

In a briefing for the Port commissioners, Smith said each generator unit weighs 75 tons. They will be moved on 19-axle trailers. Arrangements also will be required to move the blades, which will pose length problems.

The loads will travel east on Interstate 84, then cross back into Washington at Walla Walla.

According to the Wind Energy Association, turbines in Washington now generate 240 megawatts of power, with another 374 megawatts planned. This will be the third wind farm in the Walla Walla area.

"Vestas is one of the world leaders in wind power," Smith said. "Several years ago we thought they would build a turbine plant somewhere in this area, but that hasn't happened."

Smith said the idea of a turbine plant was dropped when Congress failed to extend tax credits for wind projects. Two years later, he said, the bill remains tied up in Congress.

In other Port business, the commissioners Tuesday signed a resolution that will activate an industrial-development property tax levy next year. The first money to be collected would be in February 2007. Money from that tax -- expected to total $60 million in its six-year term -- is earmarked to develop Columbia Gateway, a 534-acre industrial park east of the Vancouver Lake flushing channel.

The Port action does not trigger an automatic election, but with about 9,000 signatures, tax opponents can call for an election to block the levy. However, that petition campaign cannot start until the Port notifies the county treasurer to start the legal process of creating a tax, possibly in March or April.

It would more than double the Port's current tax from 44 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to 99 cents per $1,000. The 111-square-mile district includes all of Vancouver and the unincorporated areas north to the Clark County Fairgrounds and east to Camas.

In June, the Port commissioners almost approved the tax to start this year. But the commissioners granted a one-year delay to allow more public information and debate because the idea was only two weeks old at the time.

"I think you can count on hearings, public meetings and plenty of information in the coming year," Paulson said.

Bill Stewart
Wind Farm Gives Port Gust of Business
The Oregonian, July 13, 2005

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