Wind Farm Will Harvest Palouse’s Bounty

The idyllic scene of wind blowing across the golden wheat fields of eastern Washington is testament to the region’s bounty of natural resources. Soon, the wind will also be harvested .

First Wind, a Boston-based wind energy company, has begun construction on the 105-megawatt (MW) Palouse Wind project, situated on private land between the town of Oakesdale and U.S. 195, south of Spokane. The project will be the  largest renewable energy plant in Whitman County, with the capacity to generate enough electricity to power about 30,000  homes.

avista + wind

image via Avista

Construction is headed up by RMT, a Wisconsin-based firm specializing in siting, permitting, engineering and construction services for utility-scale wind and solar energy projects. Civil construction for the turbine sites, including the laying of the substation pad and road construction will continue through the fall. First Wind expects to begin erecting the wind turbines in spring 2012. During peak construction, the project will employ about 200 workers, the company said. Energy produced at the facility will be purchased by Avista, which is required under Washington’s Renewable Energy Standard to source 15 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2020.

First Wind specializes in the development, financing, construction, ownership and operation of utility-scale wind projects in the United States. The company owns 695 MW of operating wind plants in the Northeast, Utah and Hawaii, with an additional 181 MW under construction.

“Construction projects this large are rare for Whitman County,” said Oakesdale Mayor Dennis Palmer in a statement. “Local businesses are already starting to see the economic benefit from the infrastructure work that is going into the Palouse Wind project. When construction really gets underway next Spring, businesses throughout the region should start to see a dramatic increase in activity. A real opportunity exists for someone to provide lodging and food for all these construction workers around Oakesdale.”

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).