Fewer but bigger turbines – the most powerful ever deployed in the Northwest – could reduce the footprint and improve the economics of an Oregon wind farm that Apple is counting on for vast amounts of clean energy.
Project developer Avangrid Renewables is seeking a permit amendment for the Montague Wind Power Facility that would allow it to use a turbine model with a rotor diameter of 136 meters and generating capacity of 3.6 megawatts. That’s a big step up from the most powerful turbines spinning in the Northwest today, which can crank out 2.5 megawatts.
Avangrid has been tight-lipped about the power buyer for the 202-megawatt first phase of the project. However, in its annual sustainability report last month, Apple outed itself, calling Montague its “largest (renewable energy) project to date.”
Apple expects 560,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually from its portion of the wind farm. That’s equal to the electricity usage of about 52,000 Oregon households.
Avangrid needs a permit amendment from the state because the longer blades would have ground clearance of 14 meters (46 feet). The project is permitted for minimum clearance of 20 meters.
The Portland-based developer hasn’t made a final decision to use the longer-blade turbines, which came up in a request for proposals and appear to be a strong contender.
The turbines, Avangrid said in a letter to regulators, could “significantly minimize the facility’s footprint, and decrease overall adverse impacts by reducing the number of turbines by potentially half or more.” The company also said the turbines were “some of the most economically viable” in the RFP.
Brian Walsh, senior developer for Avangrid Renewables, said the company had expected to use turbines as big as or bigger than anything currently seen in the Northwest – the industry trend in recent years has been to go bigger, boosting energy production – but 3.6-megawatt turbines were a bit of a surprise.
“We were looking at 2.5 to 3 megawatts,” he said. “But the larger-blade turbines will work in the Columbia River Gorge area.”
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