Puget Sound Energy is teaming up with wind-power engineering firm RES Americas to build new wind farms in southeastern Washington — part of the utility's plan to assemble a strong portfolio of renewable energy.
Puget Sound Energy is teaming up with wind-power engineering firm RES Americas to build new wind farms in southeastern Washington — part of the utility’s plan to assemble a strong portfolio of renewable energy.
The companies said Monday they have begun looking at Columbia and Garfield counties, and have asked the federal Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to provide transmission lines to carry power generated there to Puget Sound Energy’s Western Washington market.
“It’s just a great location for wind,” said Kimberly Harris, chief resource officer for Puget Sound Energy.
Local utilities are increasing their renewables portfolio partly because a state mandate — Initiative 937, passed in 2006 — says that in 2020, 15 percent of the electricity generated by each Washington utility must come from renewable sources, not including hydroelectric power.
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Harris said Puget Sound Energy is “ahead of target” toward that goal and gets more than 5 percent of its current electricity generation from renewables.
Puget, Washington’s largest utility, already operates two wind farms, one near Dayton in Columbia County, the other near Ellensburg. Both were built by Denver-based RES. Puget said last month that it would spend $100 million to expand its Ellensburg project, called Wild Horse.
The new projects would be in unspecified locations near Dayton and near the Garfield County town of Pomeroy.
Many analysts consider wind technology mature. “Wind generation has become more efficient and viable over the past 15, 20 years,” said Paul Latta, an analyst with brokerage firm McAdams Wright Ragen.
Now the main hurdle is the lack of transmission capacity. Northwest lawmakers are pushing for the federal government to invest in the BPA’s $1.5 billion plan to expand transmission lines to better connect Washington and Oregon’s windier parts to the most populated areas — the Puget Sound area and the Willamette Valley.
Making such connections here would be easier than in the rest of the country because there’s already an ample infrastructure built around the Columbia River’s hydro projects, said Puget Sound Energy spokesman Andy Wappler.
While not saying how much wind power they expect to generate, Puget and RES asked the BPA for up to 1,250 megawatts of transmission capacity for their venture. That would allow Puget, which will own half the power generated by any new facilities, to more than double its wind generation capacity, currently 386 megawatts.
At the end of 2007, the company generated or bought some 4,700 megawatts of electric power capacity.
Ángel González: 206-515-5644 or firstname.lastname@example.org