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Prodigious wind farm planned for Oregon site

WASCO, Ore. – A California company plans to build the largest wind farm in Oregon, and perhaps the country – a project sprawling across thousands of acres in Sherman County that would have 225 turbines and a 450-megawatt capacity.

Orion Energy’s Biglow Canyon project, which the company wants to build near Rufus and Wasco, could continuously light up more than 112,000 homes.

“It’s a terrific site,” said Jim Eisen, Orion’s vice president.

The company hopes to begin construction in 2007 but first needs state approval. It has submitted a notice of intent with the Oregon Department of Energy. As natural gas prices rise, the cost of wind-farm development has dropped over 20 years.

“The industry is joining the big leagues,” said Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association.

Last week Congress passed an energy bill that includes tax credits for wind development.

Orion operates wind farms in Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania, the largest of which is a 160-megawatt operation in west-central Texas.

Portland-based PPM Energy is testing the second phase of its Klondike wind farm next to Orion’s Biglow Canyon site.

When Klondike II’s 50 turbines begin producing this fall the entire project will have a capacity of 100 megawatts. A third phase, in the permit process, would add 300 more megawatts for a total of 400.

Jan Johnson, a PPM Energy spokeswoman, called Klondike an “unmitigated success.” Windy conditions, transmission access, open country and a willing community help make it work, she said.

Portland General Electric, which serves 765,000 customers, has agreed to buy Klondike II’s entire output.

PPM also is erecting turbines in California, Minnesota, Kansas and New York.

As of now the largest wind farm in the country is the Stateline Wind Energy Center in the eastern Columbia River Gorge. Turbines stretch along the wind-swept Vansycle Ridge, which straddles the Washington-Oregon border near Touchet, Wash., and Pendleton, Ore.

Biglow Canyon is the largest project that the American Wind Association has noted to-date. Just two other proposals, a 400-megawatt wind farm in Illinois and a 420-megawatt project off the shores of Massachusetts – are of like size, said Real de Azua.

Associated Press


2 August 2005