A big wind farm proposed for Eastern Oregon now has the permit it needs to go forward from the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council.
That doesn’t guarantee that the 399-megawatt Saddle Butte project, in both Morrow and Gilliam counties, will be built. Proposed projects, even permitted ones, regularly linger or even vanish, and a wind farm approaching Saddle Butte’s scale hasn’t been completed in Oregon in more than four years.
But this is a project that does appear to have some factors working in its favor.
First, Portland General Electric is hoping to put 500-plus megawatts of new renewables out to bid next year, and while the company has said it will consider all kinds of green sources, on cost, wind figures to be tough to beat. There are other approved wind projects, but Saddle Butte is now in the mix.
Alternatively, at least some of Saddle Butte’s power could be attractive to a corporate buyer.
Nike, after all, recently agreed to the direct purchase of wind power from three existing Columbia River Gorge wind farms owned by Avangrid Renewables. Avangrid also landed an unnamed corporate buyer for 56 megawatts of solar that it’s building in Crook County.
Another thing that could work in Saddle Butte’s favor is the incentives likely to be available to the project from the federal government.
Wind projects have a choice: They can take a production tax credit that pays 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated during the first 10 years of operation – a big sum with wind energy going for 5 cents or less these days – or they can take an investment tax credit worth 30 percent of the cost of the project.
There’s a twist, though: The incentives are only available at those levels for projects that are under construction before the end of this year. Next year, the PTC falls to 80 percent of its value, and the ITC ratchets down to 24 percent of a project’s cost.
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