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Portland General Electric Moves Closer to Construction of First Wind Farm

Portland General Electric this week moved one step closer to construction of its Biglow Canyon Wind Farm with the purchase of 76 wind turbines for phase one of the proposed 25,000-acre project.

PGE announced Monday an agreement with Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark to purchase the turbines for the Biglow Canyon site near Wasco in Sherman County.

Each wind turbine will have an electrical generating capacity of 1.65 megawatts, bringing the total for phase one to 125.4 megawatts – or about enough energy to power 32,000 homes.

With phase one in place PGE will have a total of 225 megawatts of wind energy capacity, including its existing contracts at the Klondike II and Van Sickle Ridge wind farms.

“We’re anticipating wind power will be an increasing part of our portfolio in coming years, and this project will be a model for how we’ll proceed with that,” said Steve Corson, a PGE spokesman.

PGE bought the rights to proceed with the project from Orion Energy LLC, the project’s developer, last spring.

In the first phase of the project PGE will also work with the Bonneville Power Administration to build a transmission line, a substation and other infrastructure to integrate the Biglow Canyon facility into the Federal Columbia River Power System.

Once complete, all three phases of the Biglow Canyon project will generate a total of 350 to 450 megawatts – enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.

“Our commitment is to maintain a diverse portfolio of capacity,” Corson said. “That means that we’re not at the mercy of any one source.”

But wind energy is still a small fraction of PGE’s total energy portfolio. Each year the utility generates 3,000 megawatts and purchases an additional 1,000 megawatts of electricity to meet its demand in Oregon.

To help encourage Oregon utilities to develop renewable energy sources, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has assembled a working group to develop a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that will be presented to the 2007 state Legislature.

The standard would require at least 25 percent of Oregon’s energy load to be met by renewable sources by 2025.

PGE is participating in the working group but says its decision to move forward on the Biglow Canyon wind farm was not motivated by the possibility of a state RPS.

“Since the RPS isn’t in place and we won’t know exactly how that will look, we’re doing this independently of the RPS,” Corson said. “But we would expect that the power generated by Biglow is going to help us meet some part of the RPS requirement, whatever that may be.”

By Libby Tucker