Northwest Utility Proposes Large Wind Project Site

Portland General Electric signed an agreement with Orion Energy, to acquire the development rights for the 25,000-acre Biglow Canyon Wind Farm in Sherman County, Oregon. If the agreement is approved by the OPUC, Portland General Electric (PGE) could develop between 350 and 450 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity at the site, which could produce enough electricity to power 100,000 homes. It would be one of the largest wind power projects in the nation.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC) is currently reviewing the agreement and is expected to announce its recommendation in the next several weeks. “Oregon must lead by example in its production of energy, and I applaud PGE for taking steps in helping get more wind power in our state’s energy mix,” said Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. “This is the kind of project that will help achieve my goals of meeting 25 percent of the state’s electricity through renewable energy sources by 2025 and 100 percent renewable energy in state government by 2010.” PGE officials said the agreement fits well with what customers want and with the company’s goal to minimize energy price volatility by reducing exposure to fuel costs. “If we get approval to acquire these development rights, we will be taking a significant step toward positioning ourselves to further shift our supply portfolio away from more volatile fuel sources,” said Jim Lobdell, PGE vice president of power operations and resource strategy. “This site holds a lot of promise, but it is important to note that the construction planning is at an early stage. If the economics of developing the project continue to pencil out, our plan is to develop the site in phases over time, not all at once.” The proposed acquisition of the development rights would enable PGE to hold wind easements from more than 23 private landowners in Sherman County for a term of 30 years or more. Orion Energy worked with local representatives of these landowners, collectively known as Praise the Wind, Inc., to develop and execute the wind easements. The land is currently used as farm and pasture land and will largely stay that way given the small footprint of modern wind projects. Orion Energy is the developer of Biglow Canyon and is working with the Oregon Department of Energy’s Energy Facility Siting Council to obtain a site certificate for the project. Orion Energy also has been working closely with Sherman County throughout the development process to ensure the project meets local needs. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) will provide engineering and construction expertise to develop the transmission infrastructure and connect the project into the region’s grid. PGE proposes to construct the wind farm in three phases during a five-year timeframe. In its first phase, PGE would install enough wind turbines at the site to produce about 126 MW of capacity, which could power up to 32,000 homes. Depending on the availability of turbines and other factors such as regulatory approval, phase one could be completed as early as the end of 2007. This first phase would help PGE fulfill its 200 MW (65 average MW) wind power target from the company’s most recent Integrated Resource Plan. Under that plan’s resource strategies, PGE customers already receive all 75 MW of wind capacity from PPM Energy’s Klondike II wind farm in Sherman County through a 30-year agreement that began last fall. PGE also is active in securing an extension to the federal production tax credit (PTC), which helps renewable power producers reduce the price of their power offerings so they are more competitive with the pricing of traditional energy sources on the market. Lobdell said the PTC will be a critical component in the development of the Biglow Canyon project.
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