Wind power for sale, but who's buying?

Wind power for sale, but who's buying?
This June 3, 2011 file photo shows wind turbines on the Columbia Gorge near Goldendale, Wash. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — The developer of a proposed wind farm in Eastern Oregon is trying to find regional utilities interested in buying the power.

Chicago-based Invenergy LLC plans to build as many as 280 wind turbines on private land east of Heppner. The farm could generate 500 megawatts of electricity.

But Invenergy has yet to reach a power purchase agreement with utilities based on current market conditions. The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council recently granted Invenergy a one-year extension to apply for a site certificate.

"If everything goes well, this will come down the pike within the next year,"?state Department of Energy spokesman Cliff Voliva told the East Oregonian newspaper. "(The developer) just felt they need a little more time to turn the corner on this."

The Heppner Wind Energy Facility would create more than 200 jobs during construction and 20-25 full-time positions when finished, according to a company statement. Invenergy previously developed the 72-megawatt Willow Creek facility in Gilliam and Morrow counties.

Company spokeswoman Alissa Krinsky declined to say how the expired federal wind production tax credit factors into the equation. The credit pays 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by wind, though eligible projects had to be under construction or had invested 5 percent of its cost before the credit expired Dec. 31.

Varner Seaman, policy director for Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, said he's optimistic Congress will reauthorize the credit. More pertinent, he said, is California's recent shift toward in-state renewable resources. A?2011 law increased the state's renewable portfolio standard to 33 percent by 2020, but included restrictions to keep more projects in California.

"We have seen some project proposals go away, and some developers who have dropped their permit applications,"?Seaman said. "But there are still many of our members who have interest in the project pipeline in the Pacific Northwest and believe the market will recover."

A Renewable Northwest Project database shows the Heppner facility as one of nine projects currently in permitting across the state.

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Information from: East Oregonian