Consumer Utilities Secure Wind Power Lands

Six small Northwest consumer-owned utilities and a renewable energy non-profit foundation — all members of the Last Mile Electric Cooperative (LMEC) — stepped up to wind power this month by securing development rights to some 20,000 acres of high quality wind resource land on the north bank of the Columbia River near Roosevelt, Washington. The site has two years of wind data already collected, and is expected to support between 150 and 200 MW of large wind turbines, said the utilities.

Olympia, Washington – September, 16, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “We believe wind energy will take its place alongside hydro as a critical part of the long-term electric energy picture in the Pacific Northwest,” said Elmer Sams, President of LMEC and General Manager of Tanner Electric Cooperative in North Bend, Washington. “And we believe some of it at least should be consumer-owned through electric cooperatives and other publicly-owned utilities. Wind will be as important in the future to our consumers as hydro has been since the 1930’s.” The participants in the project are: Kittitas County Public Utility District; Klickitat Public Utility District; Lakeview Light and Power; Mason County Public Utility District #3; Plumas Sierra Electric Cooperative; Tanner Electric Cooperative; the Bonneville Environmental Foundation; and LMEC (on behalf of its other members). Other consumer-owned utilities may be invited to join as well. “It’s a new way to develop wind,” said Dave Warren, outgoing Executive Director of LMEC. “Our members are showing that smaller utilities can be players in developing new utility scale renewable generation. Their strength comes when they band together and act decisively, as they have in securing this well-documented wind resource land.” The site itself is in eastern Klickitat County, high above the Columbia River. It consists of six parcels of land under separate ownership. The rights to develop a wind farm on the properties were originally secured by SeaWest Corporation and Northwestern Wind Company; and were acquired and conveyed, with the property owners’ consent, to the participating Last Mile members. When placed into service sometime in the next two years, the wind farm would likely interconnect through the Klickitat PUD transmission system, said Warren. The greater part of the output is expected to be used by the participating utilities themselves rather than sold. Construction and operation of the wind farm will generate local jobs in Klickitat County — which is experiencing high unemployment difficulties — and add to local tax revenues. Last Mile Electric Cooperative was organized in 2001 under the auspices of the Washington Rural Electric Cooperatives Association to provide a vehicle for small, consumer-owned electric utilities to develop and own renewable energy projects. Its fifteen members and associate members come from Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California. Thirteen are operating utilities, and two are non-profit organizations with renewable energy missions. “This demonstrates that small Northwest utilities are willing and able to meet their members needs for load growth, and do it in a manner that is environmentally desirable and low impact,” said Robin Rego, Board Member and General Manager of Lakeview Light and Power in Lakewood, Washington. “Just as important, wind energy in our mix will add diversity and price stability for consumers who have been on a power rate roller-coaster the last several years.”
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