The 845-megawatt Oregon wind farm--larger than any wind farm currently in operation--will sell its power to renewables-hungry Southern California.
While Danish wind energy giant Vestas Wind Systems is issuing furloughs to some 500 workers at the company's Colorado blade plant, GE Power & Water is celebrating more positive news with the announcement of its involvement in the $1.4 billion, 338-turbine Shepherd's Flat Wind Farm in Oregon.
Because the proposed Shepherd's Flat wind farm is located in the Columbia River Gorge area, where cheap, abundant hydropower is hard to compete with on a cost per kWh basis, the power produced at Shepherd's Flat will--in theory--travel nearly the length of the West Coast of the U.S. before reaching the end-users of Southern California Edison (SCE), the nation's largest purchaser of renewable energy.
Like other investor-owned utilities in California, SCE is racing to meet the state's renewable energy requirement of 20% by 2010 and having to look out of state for new renewable capacity. But try as they may to make the mandate, making that target is going to be unlikely, Edison CEO Ed Craver told me when I spoke with him at the company's Electric Vehicle Technology Center in November.
"Transmission is creating the bottleneck to twenty percent by 2010, not the actual projects," said Craver. However, those California utilities that are unable to meet the targets because of transmission bottlenecks will be eligible for a waiver until those bottlenecks are cleared, Craver added.
SCE currently serves 16% of its customer load with renewables every day, well above the national average of 4%.
North American debut of GE's 2.5-megawatt wind turbine
The $1.4 billion contract awarded from independent power producer Caithness Energy to supply wind turbines and provide services for the project, marks a huge step forward for GE's growing wind turbine division.
Should everything be approved by state regulators, the Shepherds Flat wind farm will be the first in North America to deploy GE’s 2.5xl wind turbine. The 2.5-MW builds upon the success of GE's 1.5-MW wind turbine--the world's most popular--which has been deployed over 12,000 times in Europe and Asia.
Economic impacts of the wind farm are nothing to be sneezed at, especially in an area that has been hit by fickle agricultural markets and a crumbling timber industry.
Caithness Energy estimates that the $2 billion project will employ 400 workers during construction and 35 during operation, injecting $16 million annually into the Oregon economy. Construction will begin in 2010 and will be completed in 2012.
Image courtesy of GE