An empty field on farmland near the Washington-Idaho border is being dug up to erect the first turbine of the first wind farm to be built in the heart of the Palouse region north of the Snake River. Work has just begun on building the Palouse Wind project. Once complete, farmers will continue to farm around the turbines in one of the most fertile regions in the world for wheat production.
The Palouse Wind project will be the first wind farm to be built by First Wind in the state of Washington. The company has contracted to sell the power to Avista, the Spokane-based utility that serves eastern Washington and northern Idaho, for the next 30 years. The Palouse Wind Project, near the town of Oakesdale, is also a first for Avista — it will be the first wind power project to be built in the Avista utility district.
The power plant will take just six months to build, which is much faster than a coal or nuclear plant. Wind farms are very straightforward construction projects.
Building this one entails erecting just 58 turbines, each one rated 1.8 MW, to create a 105 MW wind farm, which will ship enough power to fully supply the electricity of 30,000 families for the 30 year power contract. By Thanksgiving this year, Avista customers will be getting their first wind powered electrons from a local project.
Avista will take delivery of the power through a direct interconnect to the already built Benewah-to-Shawnee transmission line.
The state mandate — to add more renewable energy like solar or wind to cut down on carbon emissions that cause climate change – is driving the project. Under its 2006 Energy Independence Act, Washington requires its utilities to meet a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 15 percent renewable energy (excluding hydro) by 2020.