The long, winding roads through Yakima and approaching Goldendale give way to wheat fields and the summer sun in Eastern Washington. And in a few months, the wind that powers through its valleys will boost the Gig Harbor Peninsula into the era of renewable energy.
It’s where the Harvest Wind project is located, some 260 miles from Gig Harbor. And it’s where 43 windmills – each larger than the length of a football field – are being erected high on a ridge overlooking the Columbia River.
As contractors from Lotus Works of Vancouver, Wash., worked with a large crane last Thursday to lift a 148-foot blade into its hub, Peninsula Light Company CEO Jafar Taghavi and Power Resources Director Ray Grinberg joined others with hard hats and construction vests on the site. They beamed at the $250 million project that will help PenLight reach 50 percent of the state’s renewable energy mandate by 2016.
“We see this as the first of several projects that we’ll need in the next 15 to 20 years to reach our goals,” Grinberg said.
Those goals are shared by statewide utilities which serve 25,000 people or more since voters passed Initiative 937 in 2006. It requires utilities to obtain 15 percent of their power resources from renewable sources – such as wind, solar, geothermal or biomass – by 2020, with an initial boost of 3 percent beginning in 2012 and 9 percent four years later.
Taghavi, who was hired by PenLight’s Board of Directors in 2007, said when Harvest Wind comes online, possibly as soon as December, it’ll be the first time in the company’s 85-year history that the cooperative will be generating its own power.
“We’ve always relied on big brother,” Taghavi said, referring to Bonneville Power Administration, from which PenLight buys the power that serves the peninsulas. “Business has changed.”
The giant towers are proof.
Accompanied by a two-man documentary film crew from North Woods Productions of Olalla, PenLight officials, including Marketing Director Jonathan White, toured the rolling hills and marveled at the sight of the off-white generators. They are part of the second wind farm in the area; the existing White Creek project, which came online in 2007, is twice the size of Harvest Wind.
Project Manager Ed Smith of Lotus Works said Harvest Wind’s 100-megawatt farm will produce enough electricity to power about 20,000 homes.
Each Siemens-manufactured turbine will generate about 2.3 megawatts and needs a 15 to 20 mph wind to reach its ideal production.
“We were aware of this project, and we did our due diligence to make sure it would serve our members’ needs,” Grinberg said.
Lee Test, an independent contractor who works as a consultant on the site, said the 260-foot towers are made in China and shipped to the states in three sections. When they are erected – and when one of the three blades is completely vertical – the structure is about 100 feet taller than the distance between the new Narrows bridge deck and one of its towers.
The windmill blades are shipped to Pasco by railroad from Iowa, and the nacelles, which generate the power, are made in Denmark, Test said.
BRIAN MCLEAN, The Peninsula Gateway – http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/882630.html