Portland General Electric has signed agreements with Iberdrola Renewables to purchase two Gilliam County wind farms. The deal is contingent on those projects being selected as the preferred option in the utility’s ongoing solicitation for more renewable resources to meet state mandates.
Oregon utilities are required to put their resource purchases out to bid with independent suppliers, and typically submit a self-build proposal that is used as a benchmark for other bids.
PGE needs an additional 100 average megawatts of power from renewable sources to meet state mandates, which require utilities meet 15 percent of customer demand with renewables by 2015 and 25 percent by 2025. The utility issued a request for bids in October and announced the following month that it had received more than 60 bids. The Iberdrola deal will serve as its benchmark bid.
PGE doesn’t release information on its self-build proposals, though they typically become public because of permitting activity. In this case, it needed to start the process with Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council of transferring the permits in case they are selected when a decision is made in March.
In that case, PGE would purchase a 111 megawatt section of an existing Iberdrola project, Leaning Juniper, as well as the proposed Montague wind farm, a 404 megawatt project that has been permitted and laid out but not constructed, said PGE spokesman Steve Corson. Together, the projects could deliver about 150 average megawatts, assuming a 30 percent capacity factor, though PGE could phase in the turbines as needed.
Terms of the deal were not released. Iberdrola, the subsidiary of a Spanish utility whose North American headquarters is in Portland, was long the largest developer of wind projects on the Columbia Plateau and one of the biggest renewable energy developers nationwide.
That growth has stalled, however, as utilities in Oregon and Washington have come close to satisfying initial targets under their renewables mandates, while California has limited utilities’ use of imported of renewable power to satisfy its own mandates.
Nationally, renewable energy developers face strong headwinds, too, given uncertainty over federal tax credits and competition with cheap natural gas. Iberdrola was one of the biggest recipients of government cash grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a source of money that has since dried up. Congress did approve a one year extension of the production tax credit for renewable energy developers, though that hasn’t sparked a big turnaround in development.
Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola, said the deal with PGE wasn’t a sign of retrenchment by Iberdrola, though he said the company has no projects under construction in North America. Its parent company, meanwhile, has announced plans to curtail investment and sell non strategic assets in order to reduce debt.
“We’re pursuing a range of strategy options and the decision to pursue this doesn’t change our long terms stance on the U.S. renewable energy market,” Copleman said.
Iberdrola did lay off 25 staff a year ago in Portland. That was one month before Portland City Council approved a $1.15 million grant to the company with the goal of keeping its headquarters in Portland for the next decade. It employs 400 in Oregon, though Copleman said he didnlt have a headcount in Portland.
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