Wind turbines reaching 400 feet into the air are not a normal sight along the high desert plains of Eastern Oregon, but as the federal government continues to provide enticing grant options to entrepreneurs in the state, that form of clean energy technology could become more common locally.
One case in point is a recent decision by the United States Department of Agriculture regarding a grant for a feasibility study for a 10 megawatt family wind farm in Vale.
The USDA doled out $37,000 last year for the feasibility study to a limited liability company called Faith Wind LLC through a Value Added Producer Grant, according to a September 2006 news release from the USDA.
The feasibility study has not yet been completed, though, and the USDA is maintaining confidentiality of the grant recipients as well as the application that was submitted.
Confidentiality is being maintained to promote relationships with the business community and because the application is like a business plan, USDA Business and Cooperative Program Director for Oregon Jeff Diess said.
According to the Oregon Secretary of State Business Registry, the manager of Faith Wind LLC is Lori Decker, Corvallis. The name listed on the Faith Wind LLC Value Added Producer Grant application is Donald Decker, also of Corvallis, USDA Business Program Specialist for Eastern Oregon Don Hollis said.
Donald Decker and Lori Decker could not be reached for comment last week.
In most cases, though, wind developers finance, own and operate wind farms. The steps leading to wind energy development include: prospecting for wind sites; negotiating land use agreements; monitoring wind speeds; arranging financing; investigating transmission access; and negotiating power purchase agreements, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Web site.
The grant garnered by Faith Wind LLC to study the feasibility of wind power in Vale was not the only Value Added Producer Grant received by businesses in Oregon in 2006.
Two other similar grants – both for $43,000 – were awarded to two Oregon LLCs in Elgin and Wallowa to develop feasibility studies for 10 megawatt family wind farms, according to the September USDA release.
Approximately 10 megawatts worth of wind turbines can be placed on a section of land, and spacing usually allows for six 1.5 megawatt turbines per section.
A single 1.5 megawatt wind turbine produces enough power to fuel 500 homes annually, according to the frequently asked questions posted on the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Web site.
Oregon had a relatively high level of power produced last year from wind projects throughout the state – 439 megawatts – while six years earlier there were only 25 megawatts of wind energy produced in the state.
Idaho produced a lot less wind energy than Oregon last year, with 75 megawatts; however, Texas and California took the lead by each producing more than 2,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Wind resources throughout Oregon register highest along the western coastal regions of the state; however, the quantity of wind resources can vary significantly, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Renewable energy resources, like wind, have become popular political verbiage in recent years.
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has said that by 2010 he wants renewable electricity to account for 100 percent of the state government’s electrical needs, according to a 2006 release from his office.
And, private sector companies throughout Oregon are already capitalizing on enticing grant options provided through state and federal coffers.
Eleven projects in Oregon received $1 million among 194 throughout the country that received $22.6 million in USDA Rural Development Grant assistance through the Value Added Producer Grant and Small Minority Producer Grant Programs, according to the September USDA release.
“The competition for the grants was fierce, but Oregon still managed to be among the top five states in total amount of money received under this program,” Oregon State Director for USDA Rural Development Mark Simmons said in the September USDA release.
The Bush administration has committed more than $136 million to “value-added agricultural investments.”
The associated grants can be used for feasibility studies, like with Faith Wind LLC, or to provide working capitol for marketing agricultural- and farm-based renewable energy products, according to the September USDA release.
Other local USDA Rural Development grant winners in 2006 were: Select Onion Company LLC in Ontario, which garnered $150,000 to develop new markets for innovative onion products, and Froerer Farms Inc., in Nyssa, which received $118,210 to purchase additional asparagus inventory and expand the existing market, according to the USDA release.
By Andy Gates – Argus Observer
15 April 2007
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