Marking the return of big wind power development in Oregon, Avangrid Renewables plans to break ground in September on the first phase of a 404-megawatt project in Gilliam County.
As with the company’s Gala Solar project in Crook County, power from the 202-megawatt Phase I of the Montague project will go to a non-utility mystery buyer. One megawatt can power between 250 and 400 homes.
“We do have a signed PPA for Phase I, but they do not wish to be named at this time,” an Avangrid spokesman said via email.
Oregon was at the epicenter of the American wind boom in the 2000s, but development waned this decade, and a big new project hasn’t gone up since the completion of the 845-megawatt Caithness Shepherds Flat project in 2012.
Several factors contributed to the wind doldrums:
• California largely closed the door to out-of-state projects.
• Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp contracted enough renewables to meet their state mandates.
• The state’s generous Business Energy Tax Credit ended.
• Transmission space on the region’s grid grew tight.
• Natural gas became extraordinarily cheap.
• Wind’s economics worked better in the Midwest and Texas.
While there hasn’t been a wholesale shift in those circumstances, Diana Scholtes, managing director of origination for Avangrid Renewables, said in an email the company envisions more Oregon opportunities.
“With the increase in the Oregon RPS and the growing appetite from the commercial and industrial sector – combined with our unique energy management platform enabling Direct Access delivery of renewables to sustainability conscience buyers – we are very bullish on new commercial renewables in Oregon and our ability to meet the growing demand,” she said.
Direct Access is an Oregon program that allows corporate customers to opt out of their utility’s usual service and source electricity through an “energy service supplier” – like Avangrid. According to a June 2016 Oregon Public Utility Commission report, Direct Access accounted for 15.7 percent of Portland General Electric’s load and 3.5 percent of PacifiCorp load.
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