First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, commemorated the start of major construction on its first wind project in Washington state, Palouse Wind in northern Whitman County. Local officials were joined by community and business leaders along with First Wind and industry executives at a celebratory kick-off event for the 105 megawatt (MW) project, which will bring significant revenue to the local community during construction and through long-term tax revenues while making clean, renewable energy available for up to 30,000 homes.
Speakers during the event included Senator Mark Schoesler, 9th District; Representative Susan Fagan, 9th District; and Greg Partch, Chair Commissioner of Whitman County; along with key project partners. Guests heard remarks before a celebratory luncheon on the project site.
“We have an abundant supply of wind in Washington, and it’s been recognized by First Wind and its partners in the Palouse project, including one of our own utilities, Avista,” said Rep. Susan Fagan, who spoke at the event. “The Palouse project joins with other important renewable sources, including our hydropower system, in providing clean, emission-free energy. And just as importantly, it brings economic opportunity to the region in the form of jobs and revenues.”
Project construction will include the installation of 58 Vestas V100-1.8 MW turbines between State Route 195 and the town of Oakesdale. Once complete, the Palouse Wind project will be the largest renewable energy facility in the county with the capacity to generate enough clean energy to power about 30,000 Northwest homes, equal to the total energy load of all of Whitman County. Construction of the project is expected to be completed by November and it will be online and operating by the end of the year.
“Celebrating our first project in Washington state makes this an exceptional day for First Wind, and we are as grateful to our supporters throughout Whitman County and the state that were integral in bringing the area’s largest renewable energy facility to life,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “In addition to representing a major source of clean energy for years to come, we are also making a major investment in the economic future of the region with $30 million of direct spending planned during construction and an additional $1.5 million each year once the project achieves commercial operations.”
Avista Corporation will purchase the energy produced by the Palouse Wind project and will take delivery of the power through a direct interconnect to the Avista 230 kilovolt (kV) Benewah-to-Shawnee transmission line. This will be the first wind project built in Avista’s service territory and it will help Avista achieve its goal of meeting Washington State’s renewable portfolio standard.
“The power from Palouse Wind will be part of a diverse, responsible energy portfolio that includes renewable resources generated right here in our community,” said Avista Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Morris. “Palouse Wind will help Avista meet its goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, while meeting renewable portfolio standards.”
The general contractor on the project, RMT, Inc., is hiring many Pacific Northwest-based businesses and subcontractors to work on the project. During construction, it is estimated that the project will create about 150 jobs and will result in $30 million of spending with local businesses in Whitman County and the Inland Northwest. Once Palouse Wind is operational, Whitman County will receive approximately $12 million over the next 20 years in property tax revenues, or approximately $700,000 annually, which can be used to lower tax rates, improve schools, maintain roads and enhance local services.
The project’s 58 Vestas V100-1.8 MW wind turbines are state-of-the-art technology. Turbine deliveries are expected in the next month. In May 2011, First Wind received a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Palouse Wind. Avista announced that it had selected to purchase power from First Wind’s Palouse Wind project in June 2011. Initial stages of construction work began in October 2011 and shortly thereafter First Wind secured $210 million in construction financing. The project is expected to be online and operational before the end of 2012.