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Eastern Oregon wind power heats up with new project

A Canadian company says it’s ready to pursue a big wind power plant in Umatilla County, not far from where the nation’s largest generator of renewable energy wants to build its own major wind farm.

Capital Power Corporation this month filed a notice of intent with the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council to seek a site certificate for the Nolin Hills Wind Power Project, capable of producing up to 350 megawatts of power. It would be located about 10 miles west of Pendleton.

The southwestern boundary of Nolin Hills would be right next door to the northeastern reach of renewable energy giant NextEra Energy’s Wheatridge Wind Energy Facility, a 500-megawatt proposal that would extend from Morrow County into Umatilla County.

Edmonton, Alberta-based Capital Power says it owns about 4,500 megawatts of generation capacity at 24 plants. It commissioned its first U.S. wind farm in June, a 178-MW project in Kansas.

The company said in its filing that it “intends to begin onsite construction by 2019, pending issuance of a Site Certificate from the Energy Facility Siting Council, with commissioning completed and commercial operation targeted for the end of 2020.”

But to be built, the project will need a buyer for the power it will produce (or, possibly, the plant itself). Wheatridge is in a similar position.

A possible candidate could come in the form of Portland General Electric, which is eager to test the market for more wind power on the Columbia Plateau, although it has run into resistance from regulators on the timing.

There could be corporate interest in the power, as well; a long-term power purchase agreement from Apple spurred the recent start of construction of Avangrid Renewables’ Montague wind farm in Gilliam County.

With Capital Power’s Kansas project, the company used a new financing model, a proxy revenue swap agreement with Allianz Risk Transfer, instead of the usual power purchase agreement. Microsoft is buying the environmental attributes of the project.

The Wheatridge project is further along than Nolin Hills, with a site certificate and interconnection with the Bonneville Power Administration grid already secured. A spokesman for Capital Power said the Nolin Hills project would need a new BPA substation.

Nolin Hills and Wheatridge both say they met IRS requirements to qualify the projects as “under construction” before the end of last year, setting them up to earn the full value of the lucrative federal Production Tax Credit and enhancing their economic viability.