A Canadian energy company is looking to develop its largest wind farm to date on private farmland four miles south of Echo in Umatilla County.
Capital Power Corporation, based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, recently notified Oregon regulators it will pursue the Nolin Hills Wind Power Project, which would generate approximately 350 megawatts of renewable electricity.
The company filed what’s known as a Notice of Intent with the Oregon Department of Energy in September, announcing it will apply for a site certificate to build the project. Preliminary information shows the facility would be located on 44,900 acres with an 18-mile, 230-kilovolt transmission line to connect onto the energy grid. The precise number, size and layout of turbines has not yet been determined.
Paul Wendelgass, director of business development for Capital Power Corporation, said the company hopes to have the wind farm completed by 2020 in order to qualify for the federal production tax credit, which currently pays 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour but will phase down by 20 percent per year through 2019.
The Department of Energy anticipates Capital Power will submit its application for a site certificate by February 2018. For now, the public has until Monday, Nov. 6 to provide comments on the Notice of Intent.
“We’ve been conducting environmental studies at the site,” Wendelgass said. “We’re working on studies to refine our site layouts, evaluate constraints from an environmental perspective and do our best to avoid or mitigate the impacts where we can.”
Capital Power, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, traces its history back to the Edmonton Electric Lighting and Power Company, formed in 1891. The company became an independent power producer in 2009, and today owns 24 generation facilities in North America with a total of 4,500 megawatts — including a mixture of wind, coal, gas and biomass power plants.
Capital Power took over the Nolin Hills Wind Power Project after acquiring the original developer, Element Power of Portland, in 2014. Wendelgass said wind resources in Eastern Oregon are not as robust as down the Columbia River Gorge, but decent considering the advances in wind energy technology.
The size and number of turbines will largely depend on what type of turbine the company decides to install, and will likely range from 292 to 394 feet high. Leases have already been arranged with the private landowners, Wendelgass said, though he did not provide details.
Until the project receives a site certificate from the Energy Facility Siting Council, Wendelgass said they do not have a buyer of the electricity on the hook.
“Without finishing the EFSC process, you can’t build a project,” he said.
According to the Notice of Intent, the project will connect to a yet-to-be-built Bonneville Power Administration substation near Stanfield. Wendelgass said he is aware of the amount of irrigated cropland in the area, and “that is certainly something they will have to take into account.”
Transmission line impacts on high-value farmland has been a concern in Umatilla and Morrow counties, given the proposed Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line owned by Idaho Power and the Wheatridge Wind Energy Project owned by Florida-based NextEra Energy.
The Department of Energy recently approved a site certificate for the 500-megawatt Wheatridge wind farm, while the 500-kilovolt B2H line could receive its record of decision as early as this month. Local farmers and officials have discussed implementing a pilot project that would designate a single transmission corridor in Morrow County, allowing energy facilities to tap into the grid without resulting in a spiderweb of power lines disrupting farm activities.
The concept has even garnered the interest of Gov. Kate Brown, who established an advisory committee in October 2015 to brainstorm possible balances between energy and agriculture. That committee issued its final report in February, and Brown has instructed the Department of Land Conservation and Development to work with Morrow County on crafting temporary rules for development.
Contact George Plaven at email@example.com or 541-966-0825.