The United States will increase its reliance on wind energy by 20 percent, in order to provide electricity in western regions of the country.WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-06-26 [SolarAccess.com] The United States will increase its reliance on wind energy by 20 percent, in order to provide electricity in western regions of the country. The Department of Energy will use its Bonneville Power Administration to sign pre-development agreements for seven windfarms that would generate 830 megawatts of power. The output is sufficient for 270,000 homes and the initiative represents an increase in the nation’s wind power capacity of 20 percent. “Today, we’re celebrating moving a mature renewable technology from the lab to the marketplace,” says Energy secretary Spencer Abraham. “While renewables remain a small percentage of our electricity generation portfolio, we look forward to increasing this share through continued federal leadership.” Abraham says the action by BPA responds to the National Energy Policy released by President George Bush and the attention it places on the development of clean and diverse sources of domestic energy. “Hydropower, geothermal, wind, and other renewables are highlighted in the National Energy Policy for their potential for strengthening America’s energy security,” he explains. BPA selected the wind projects from 25 proposals that totaled 2,600 MW, the largest request for wind proposals ever conducted in the U.S. The finalists were chosen by criteria that included cost and availability of transmission. The average first-year cost of the wind power is expected to be less than $30 per megawatt-hour. The Portland agency estimates that costs for the wind program will still be competitive with coal and natural gas after adding in costs to firm up the intermittent supply of wind generation. “Bonneville has structured a business arrangement that makes economic sense to both the ratepayers in the Northwest and the wind energy developers,” says Abraham. “As a result of this process, Bonneville will be assured a long-term source of competitively priced power, while the developers will be assured of a stable, reliable rate of return on their investment.” BPA now will negotiate pre-development agreements with four companies behind the windfarms: SeaWest Wind Power of San Diego, California; Zilkha Renewable Energy and Columbia Wind Power, both of Texas; and Pacific Winds of Boise, Idaho. It will complete an assessment of the impacts on the environment before signing final power purchase contracts on any project. The projects will be commission in less than three years. Five of the windfarms would be in Washington State and two in Oregon. “This is a great step in helping the Northwest overcome its energy shortage,” says Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), co-chair of the House Renewable Energy Caucus. “This is the best kind of energy to bring to the region: clean, renewable and inexpensive.” “A sound energy supply depends on a balanced portfolio of resources,” adds Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA). “The wind projects proposed in Washington State will help us meet the growing demand for energy by harnessing an abundant and natural resource.” Completion of the windfarms will make BPA the largest wind energy supplier in the United States. The agency has 34 MW of wind generation in operation, and another 425 MW in progress. Combined with the 830 MW in this announcement, the amount of wind energy capacity in the U.S. would expand by 28 percent. “In the Pacific Northwest, wind is plentiful,” explains acting BPA administrator Steve Wright. “By aggressively pursuing this resource for electricity, we hope to be able to help meet the demand for energy with a clean, economical, nonpolluting resource.” BPA’s assessment will look at environmental and other siting concerns, and has started a study to evaluate the operational and economic impact of such a large intermittent resource on the power system. The total amount of wind power that it purchases will depend on the results of the studies. BPA is a federal agency that markets hydroelectric power from the federal dams on the Columbia River, and it owns and operates three-quarters of the total transmission capacity in the Pacific Northwest.