California - Los Angeles Department of Water and Power buys 15 years of wind power

Willow Creek project to produce 72 megawatts

The 48 wind turbines that straddle Morrow and Gilliam counties at Willow Creek Wind Farm have yet to spin, but their power has already been sold. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest municipal utility, has purchased the expected output of the wind project - 72 megawatts - for the next 15 years. The electricity, which will amount to about 200,000 megawatts of power, will be received at Bonneville Power Authority's Boardman/ Alkali line, then transmitted to Sylmar in northern Los Angeles. It will provide energy for about 54,000 households each year.

"This is another crucial step on the ladder to reach our renewable energy goals," said Nick Patsaouras, the president of the LADWP board of commissioners. California, like Oregon, has been pushing to make renewable energy a larger part of its electricity use. Oregon's renewable energy act last year called for the largest utilities to acquire a quarter of their electricity from green energy sources by 2025, and California's law requires their utilities to increase their use to 33 percent by 2020. And California's population is nine times Oregon's.

But to characterize California as aggressively snatching up all of Oregon's green energy would not be accurate, said Rachel Shimshak, the director of the Renewable Northwest Project, a coalition of energy companies and public-interest organizations that promote green energy. "By far the large majority of northwest renewable energy resources is serving the northwest load," she said. Shimshak said there are thousands of green energy projects in the western states. They are primarily wind power projects, she said, but there are also geothermal and solar power projects.

The supply of wind power, in particular, is growing so fast that the Bonneville Power Authority has been challenged by the requests for transmission service from wind power producers, according to Doug Johnson, a spokesman for BPA. There are 1,500 megawatts of wind power currently running through BPA's system and there will be 2,000 by the end of the year, he said. Another 4,716 megawatts will be added in the coming years, Johnson said.

In March, BPA held a "network open season" where it asked potential energy producers if they would be interested in tying into BPA's system, which is the largest in the region. The requests for transmission in BPA's queue prior to the open season amounted to several thousand megawatts. After narrowing down the requests to those willing to invest in new transmission lines and actually sign contracts with BPA, there were 6,000 megawatts of new electricity, 60 percent of which will come from wind power.

Johnson said BPA's task is now determining the economics of paying for all the new transmission infrastructure. "We've certainly been challenged, but this is what we wanted," he said. "We are working toward accommodating all those requests." Shimshak said that California's purchase of Oregon-grown power is nothing new; the two states have been trading electricity for 50 years. But California has it's own burgeoning green energy industry, she said. Concentrating solar plants, for instance, could be California's answer to wind power. "I would not be surprised if northwest utilities start looking to California for renewable energy," she said.
Online editorial www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, wind farm, renewable energy, wind power, wind turbine, rotorblade, offshore, onshore

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