Avista Buys Wind Near Spokane
by Charles Redell
Sustainable Industries, May 15, 2008
Industry calls for production-tax credits, help with building transmission lines
SPOKANE, WASH. - In early May, Avista purchased the rights to a wind farm near the town of Reardan, Wash. from Energy Northwest for an undisclosed sum. The development will sit on a 3,200-acre site of mostly farmland near the town 25 miles east of Spokane, Wash. The "nearly permitted" wind farm will be capable of producing as much as 50 MW of power but will generate an average of 15 MW due the variable nature of wind.
Though permitting and the final few studies to determine exactly where turbines should be placed are almost done, construction won't start until 2011. That's how long it will take to get turbines delivered, even though they are being ordered now, says Hugh Imhof, a spokesman for Avista. The wind farm is expected to come online at the end of 2011.
The company's experience during the West Coast energy crisis in 2000 and 2001 helped make the case for buying, developing and running the wind farm instead of purchasing the power from a developer. "One lesson we learned in the energy crisis is that you need to control your own energy sources," Imhof said. "We'd rather control our own destiny."
The Reardan wind farm was attractive to the company specifically because it is located in Avista's service territory and is close to transmission lines. The location removes the need to build more transmission or to pay "wheeling charges" to other transmission owners. Imhof says Avista is looking for other sites with those attributes as well.
Avista's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) calls for 300 MW of wind energy to be added to the company's portfolio by 2017, in part to meet load growth of about 2.3 percent a year over the next 20 years. The IRP was written before Washington voters in 2006 passed I-937, which created the state's renewable portfolio standard. The renewable portfolio standard will likely drive more development of wind on Avista's grid. According to Imhof, the company is actively pursuing a few sites currently.
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