February 17, 2010 in Business

Avista pushes back Reardan wind farm construction

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Avista Corp. will delay construction of a 50-turbine wind farm near Reardan until at least 2014, citing the high costs associated with harnessing energy from the wind.

Avista had planned to have the farm operating in 2013 so it could qualify for federal and state tax credits, but officials now say the electricity won’t be needed for several more years. This is the second delay for the Lincoln County project, which was first announced in 2008.

“It really doesn’t pencil out at this time,” said Hugh Imhof, a spokesman for the Spokane-based utility. “We thought it would be more prudent to wait until we need the electricity, or the renewable energy credits, and do it then.”

In 2006, Washington voters passed a law requiring utilities to get 15 percent of their future power supplies from non-carbon-emitting sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower.

The wind turbines – slated for a gusty ridge five miles south of Reardan – are part of Avista’s plan to meet those standards. In the short-term, however, the utility can meet the standards by retrofitting turbines at Avista’s two dams on the Clark Fork River and buying renewable energy credits on the market, Imhof said.

Ongoing upgrades of the turbines at the Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge dams will cost $46 million and boost the dams’ electrical output by 38 megawatts, which is enough power for 28,500 homes. Imhof said the dams’ increased output qualifies as new, renewable energy, and it comes at less than half of the cost of installing wind turbines in Reardan.

Building the wind farm will cost $109 million to $196 million. The wind farm is being planned with a generating capacity of 50 to 90 megawatts, which is enough electricity for 37,500 to 67,500 homes. However, wind farms generally run at one-third of their capacity because the wind doesn’t always blow.

The wind project would be Avista’s first, though the utility has been buying credits from a wind farm on the Oregon-Washington border for several years.

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