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Oregon-Wash. Border Gets Wind Farm

January 10, 2001 - GILLIAN FLACCUS - The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The world's largest wind farm is about to be built on the Oregon-Washington border — 450 wind turbines that will generate enough power for 70,000 homes in 13 Western states.

PacifiCorp, an Oregon utility serving six states, joined wind power developer FPL Energy of Florida on Wednesday to announce construction will begin next month. The wind farm could be churning out power before the end of the year.

Conservationists praised the plan as a breakthrough in renewable energy and a coup for the environment. PacifiCorp, Portland, Ore., has committed to buy raw wind power from the farm for 25 years.

"What you're getting here is a signal from one of the most significant participants in the commercial market that wind power is ready for prime time, that it's marketable and profitable," said Ralph Cavanagh, energy resources director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

FPL Energy will build, own and operate the wind farm.

PacificCorp Power Marketing, a nonregulated subsidiary, will purchase and market the entire output of the project over a 25-year period.

The new plant — called the Stateline Wind Generating Project — will straddle the Oregon-Washington border, with 200 megawatts provided by turbines in Walla Walla County, Wash., and 100 megawatts generated by turbines in Umatilla County, Ore.

The combined 300 megawatts will make the complex the world's largest single wind energy development, PacificCorp said.

Officials say the extra energy could help ease fears of rolling power blackouts in the Pacific Northwest, which typically has a summer power surplus but needs to draw electricity from California in winter.

The energy crisis in California prompted Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Washington Gov. Gary Locke last week to urge Northwest residents and businesses to cut power consumption by 10 percent until spring.

"You recognize that every little bit is going to help. This farm, in and of itself, is not going to completely relieve the energy challenge in the Northwest but it will contribute to solving it," said Carol Clawson, spokeswoman for FPL Energy.

Improvements in turbine technology have made wind power more reliable, profitable and environmentally sound.

Modern wind turbines have self-monitoring systems and adjust their direction and blade angle to maximize on the wind's natural power. The modern rotors, which are bigger and slower-moving, solve another problem that had plagued wind farms for years -- the death of thousands of birds caught in the spinning blades.

The project will generate 200 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs and provide local farmers with rent money from the lease of their land.

"Everybody's lights will burn a little brighter because of this project," Cavanagh said.

PacifiCorp was the first U.S. electric utility to be purchased by a foreign corporation when ScottishPower completed its takeover in December 1999.

FPL Energy is the largest developer and operator of wind energy facilities in the nation. It is a branch of the Juno Beach, Fla.-based FPL Group, whose largest subsidiary is Florida Electric & Light.