A wind farm of up to 450 MW could soon join the rush of wind developments sprouting in the Oregon-Washington border region. Orion Energy LLC has filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to Apply for a Site Certificate with the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council. Oakland, Calif.-based Orion hopes to erect as many as 225 turbines in Sherman County, Ore., near the Columbia River Gorge. Construction could begin in the third quarter of 2006.

(Photo courtesy of PPM Energy)

The NOI describes a wind farm with a 34.5-kV power collection system that would run both underground and overhead. The manufacturer has not yet been chosen, but the NOI specifies turbine sizes of 1.5 MW and 3 MW.

�We will develop the project and then bring in a utility to fund construction,� says Carlos V. Pineda, Orion Energy development director. He says the company is within months of announcing a partner, but declined to name the company or estimate the price of construction. Typically, 1 MW of turbine generation costs about $1 million to $1.3 million, including installation, according to Germany-based Siemens Power Generation.

Bonneville Power Administration has proposed a 12-mile, 230-kV transmission line to collect the wind power from a new substation.

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    Orion�s application follows Portland, Ore.-based PPM Energy�s entry in the blustery area, which went online in 2001 with Klondike, 16 variable-speed, variable-pitch General Electric turbines for a combined capacity of 24 MW. That was followed in September with activation of 100-MW from 50 turbines. PPM now is pursuing approval of a third phase to bring the total capacity to 300 MW by the end of 2006.

    Scott Simms, spokesman for Portland (Ore.) General Electric (PGE), which has signed a 30-year contract to purchase the Klondike II power, says, �Wind power fits well with our needs.� Wind in the area blows in the afternoons, when PGE needs the peaking power. To make the power source more dependable, PPM included a firming and shaping agreement guaranteeing that if the intermittent source of energy is not available, it will backfill with 800 MW of natural gas generation capacity.

    With the addition of Klondike II, about 6% of PGE�s supply is coming from wind energy, says Simms. �We would like to add another 125 MW,� he adds, but he declines to name the companies negotiating to fill that need.

    One reason wind has become so popular is that a combination of improved turbine technology and the extension of federal tax credits has brought the price down to between 4� and 6� per kilowatt-hour, says Rachel Shimshak, director of the Renewable Northwest Project. RNP, a coalition of public-interest organizations and energy companies, was created to promote development of the region�s renewable resources. Roger Garratt, director of resource acquisition for Puget Sound Energy Co., Bellevue, Wash., estimates the price of power generated with natural gas between 7� and 8� per kWh. Another benefit to wind farms is that they are easier than other generation types to get approved and can be built in less than six months, Shimshak adds.

    A total of 601 MW of wind-energy capacity is currently operating in Oregon and Washington with another 3,064 MW either proposed, in permitting or under construction, according to RNP.