You may be familiar with the sight of wind turbine generators in the Columbia Gorge, but soon, dozens of the tall structures will be built some 40 miles south of Spokane.
Set against the beauty of the rolling hills of the Palouse, with scenic Steptoe butte in the distance, ground was broken on the Palouse Wind project Tuesday. Just northwest of the town of Oaksdale, In a region known for wind, this project is the latest for First Wind, a Boston based company with 13 wind projects across the nation. Avista Utilties of Spokane has signed a 30 year agreement with the company to provide power to the immediate region.
Ben Fairbanks is business development director with First Wind. “We construct 58 turbines, 1.8 megawatts each for a total of 105 megawatts, enough for about 30 thousand Avista customers”
The project is on a fast track, and is expected to be on line as soon as the end of the year. Besides bringing a new renewable power source to the region, Fairbanks says there is an economic boost for the Palouse. “There will be 200 employees on site constructing the project this summer”
Although the number of people that will man the project after construction is only 15 ,Whitman County is expected to take in 12 million dollars in property tax over the next 20 years.
Both this week, and last spring, the Bonneville Power Administration told wind generating stations in the Norwest to hold back sending power to the grid, which was overwhelmed by the amount of power being generated by hydroelectric projects during spring runoff from melting snowpack. But Avista says that will not be case with power coming from the Palouse Wind Project, and all electricity generated there will be used in Avistas system.