Pacific Northwest Federal Utility Chooses Wind Powerby Staff
Environmental News Network, December 19, 2001
The federal power utility that supplies roughly half of the electricity used in the Pacific Northwest is about to double the amount of electricity it buys from wind generation projects.
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) agreed to purchase about 34 percent of the output from the Stateline Wind Project located on the Oregon-Washington border southwest of Walla Walla, Wash. The wind power should start flowing at the end of the month. BPA's purchase can provide energy for about 18,000 homes.
Announcing the purchase Friday, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said, "BPA's latest commitment to purchase wind power helps ensure that we are diversifying our energy portfolio. Energy diversity is important for America's energy security."
Steve Wright, acting BPA administrator, said, "BPA is excited to bring wind generated energy to its customers. Wind projects are becoming increasingly cost competitive. The acquisition of these projects will allow us to better understand the real costs of wind integrated with our hydro system."
The Stateline Wind Project is the Northwest's largest commercial facility to generate electricity using wind. The project is built, owned, and operated by Florida Power & Light, FPL Energy, LLC. When the first phase is completed, 399 wind turbines will be arranged in several strings on privately owned hilltops and ridges located west of Walla Walla and north of Pendleton, Ore., near the Columbia River bend.
Each Vestas V-47 wind machine can generate 660 kilowatts. The entire project can produce 265 megawatts, all of which is marketed by PacifiCorp Power Marketing.
The Stateline Wind Project underwent extensive review to minimize its environmental impact. Early biological studies indicated that the site receives little use by birds or other vulnerable species. The project uses tubular towers and buried cables in order to avoid adding new perching places for birds who might get hit by the moving blades of the turbines.
BPA currently purchases 34 megawatts of wind power from Foote Creek located in Wyoming, and it recently announced a 50-megawatt purchase from another wind power development in Condon, Ore.
Congressman Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who is co-chair of the House Renewable Energy Caucus, said the BPA purchase is a win-win situation for Americans. "Renewable energy sources are important not only in reducing our reliance on foreign oil but in powering the American economy in environmentally friendly ways," he said. "Complementing existing energy sources, they can provide farmers and landowners with a source of income while advancing these two important national goals."
The small footprint of a wind turbine means farmers can continue to grow their crops or graze their livestock while producing clean, green energy and cash. Farmers may earn $1,500 to $2,000 per turbine by leasing their land to wind developers.
By the time it has completed a current round of wind power purchases, Bonneville will be one of the largest suppliers of wind power in the country.
BPA, a federal agency based in Portland, Ore., that has been selling electricity primarily from federally owned hydropower projects, issued an Request For Proposal in February, seeking 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind power. Describing the response, George Darr, BPA's renewable power resource program manager, said, "[It] blew us away." Wind companies submitted 25 proposals, totaling about 2,600 MW.
Wright explained that wind power will work to conserve water in the drought-plagued Pacific Northwest. "Harvesting the strong, steady winds of the Columbia River Basin works especially well with our hydro power base," he said. "When the winds blow, we can save more water in reservoirs. When the winds are still, we can release the river's power. Wind farms add to our local renewable resources."
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