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PUD Signs on to Wind Project

by David Cole, Herald staff writer
Columbia Basin Herald, March 7, 2006

EPHRATA -- The Grant County Public Utility District's Board of Commissioners agreed Monday that Energy Northwest should proceed with phase three of its Nine Canyon Wind Project.

To proceed, Energy Northwest is required by law to obtain approval from a majority of its member public utilities in Washington, including Grant County PUD.

"There's a lot of talk about even requiring utilities now to diversify," said Gary Garnant, district spokesman. "But we've decided long ago to diversify our power resources."

The Richland-based agency owns and operates the wind project, supplying renewable energy to public utility districts.

"We've received quite a bit of power generation from that," Garnant said. "So it's been effective."

Right now, the project consists of 49 wind-driven turbines, each capable of producing 1.3 megawatts of power. The project, located eight miles southeast of Kennewick, was completed in two phases. Commercial operation began after phase one was complete in September 2002. During phase two, Energy Northwest erected 12 more turbines by December 2003.

"That was a good site for that wind farm on the hills behind Kennewick," Garnant said. "They get average wind speeds of 14 to 16 miles per hour consistently so they have a good power factor for those wind turbines."

The project sits on wheat farmland where tubular steel towers reach 200 feet in height and hold 100-foot adjustable blades. The turbines are placed in three rows along the windiest ridges within the 5,120 acre site. The project, however, uses only 49 acres of the site for access roads, turbines and a maintenance building. Landowners are able to farm up to the base of each turbine, where the steel towers measure 15 feet in diameter.

Though agreeing Energy Northwest should develop a third phase, Grant County PUD is neither obligated to participate in the new phase nor to financially support it, Garnant said.

The district participated in phase one of the project, purchasing 25 percent of the first 48.1 megawatts of capacity. The district did not participate in the second phase.

The third phase would add 14 wind turbines to the project and boost generating capacity from 63.7 megawatts of power to 95.7.

At 49 turbines, Nine Canyon already holds the distinction of the largest public power wind project in the nation. For states, Washington ranks fifth in wind energy production.

In addition to diversifying power resources with Nine Canyon, the district itself is currently testing likely wind power sites in Grant County. Presently, the test sites are near Wanapum Dam, Hartline, Monument, the Frenchman Hills and the Port of Mattawa. District officials are planning three additional test sites.

"That's being done throughout central Washington," Garnant said. "There are a number of utilities that are looking at the potential for wind power."

David Cole
PUD Signs on to Wind Project
Columbia Basin Herald, March 7, 2006

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