On the brink of construction, a 292-turbine wind farm slated for Umatilla and Morrow counties is changing hands.
NextEra Energy, based in Juno Beach, Florida, has purchased the development rights for the Wheatridge Wind Energy Facility and is now working to transfer the project’s site certificate through the Oregon Department of Energy.
Wheatridge was pioneered by Ione farmer Jerry Rietmann before the facility sold to NextEra in April, according to documents. One month later, the Energy Facility Siting Council issued its site certificate for the wind farm, giving developers the go-ahead to start building.
A request to transfer the certificate from Swaggart Wind Power LLC to NextEra Energy was filed June 14. But first, an informational hearing will be held before the council Thursday, July 27 at the Best Western Plus Inn in Hood River.
Rietmann did not return calls for comment. A spokesman for NextEra Energy released a statement saying the project “will create tremendous economic opportunities for the region as well as bring more low-cost, emission-free energy to Oregon.”
Once completed, Wheatridge will generate up to 500 megawatts of energy. The turbines are designed to be built over two main areas – Wheatridge West, located entirely within Morrow County about seven miles northwest of Heppner, and Wheatridge East, about 16 miles northeast of Heppner and crossing into Umatilla County. The two areas will be 25 miles apart, connected via 230-kilovolt overhead power lines.
Transmission onto the electricity grid was not addressed in the project’s application, as developers had intended for a third party own and construct those lines separately. The hope was that by establishing a single designated transmission corridor, multiple projects including Wheatridge could link up on a single set of lines without having a spiderweb of lines crisscross the landscape. There was particular concern multiple transmission systems could interrupt farming and take high-value land out of production.
NextEra says it is currently working on solutions to connect onto the power grid, and evaluating its options for selling the power generated by Wheatridge.
As of 2016, NextEra and its subsidiaries had a consolidated revenue of $16.2 billion and 45,900 megawatts of generating capacity. NextEra Energy Resources bills itself as the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun.
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