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Bigger blades bound for Dayton wind farm in retrofit project

DAYTON – Turbine blades even bigger than the originals will start to travel through the community for a “re-powering” of the Marengo wind project northeast of here.

PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power, will retrofit its 78 turbines in a $210 million upgrade expected to infuse jobs and tax revenue while increasing the company’s annual wind facility energy production by 37 percent.

The work is expected to extend the life of the wind farm by 30 years, said Project Manager Brent Denham.

Marengo is a 140.4-megawatt project that began operations in 2007.

Denham told attendees at an economic development meeting in Dayton on Tuesday the project will retrofit the current 1.8 megawatt wind turbines at the sites to 2.0 megawatt units.

The project is part of a broader investment of $3.1 billion from PacifiCorp in Oregon, Washington and Wyoming between now and 2020.

The existing towers, foundations and circuits from the original project will be reused.

The new blades are coming from Portugal into the Port of Vancouver. They’ll be trucked up the Gorge and delivered here. The nacelles – the housing for the turbines’ generating components – come from Brighton, Colo.

The work is expected to help lower costs for customers as the wind farm upgrades allow the company to capture more years of federal renewable energy production tax credits.

“It greatly increases the value of the energy under the production tax credits,” Denham said.

Wanzek Construction last month held a career fair in Dayton to help recruit for the estimated 60 jobs created through the work, projected to run through October. Denham said 25 or 30 people went through orientation Monday.

Port of Columbia Executive Director Jennie Dickinson praised the project as a boon for Columbia County and its tax rate.

“That’s one of the reasons we have the lowest rate in our region by far,” Dickinson said.

Denham said blades will begin arriving next week. They’ll travel via U.S. Highway 12 through Waitsburg and into Dayton, traversing Turner Road to McGee Road and Johnson Hollow to Laydown Yard.