General Electric has landed a large $1.4B contract to supply wind turbines and related services for Caithness Energy’s Shepherds Flat 845MW capacity wind farm, which will make it the largest wind farm in the world featuring 238 GE 2.5xl wind turbines to be installed in 2011-2012.
by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post
General Electric (GE) one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wind turbines has landed a $1.4 billion contract to supply wind turbines and related services for Caithness Energy’s Shepherds Flat 845MW capacity wind farm. The Shepherds Flat project when completed will cover an area of 30 square miles, in Morrow County, in the Northeast portion of Oregon, near the town of Arlington and will feature 238 GE 2.5xl wind turbines to be installed in 2011-2012.
This will be the first time GE’s 2.5xl turbines are installed in the US and it will be the single largest single order for these very large wind energy machines in the world. Although this is the first deployment of these turbines within the US the 2.5xl wind turbine has been proven in Europe and Asia where it has gained a reputation as a reliable machine.
The Shepherds Flat project has been in the planning stage for about 5 years now and almost all permits are in place for this project, with construction scheduled to begin next year. Caithness Energy estimates that the $2 billion project will inject $16 million annually of direct economic benefits into Oregon, and will employ 400 workers during construction and 35 during operation.
“The Caithness project highlights our ability to deliver integrated solutions in the clean energy space and it supports our overarching focus to provide first in class technology to our customers,” said Steve Bolze, president & CEO of GE Power & Water.
“The 2.5-MW wind turbine is the latest evolution of GE’s wind turbine technology and provides customers with greater efficiency, reliability and grid connection capabilities. The 2.5-MW builds upon the success of GE’s 1.5-MW wind turbine, the world’s most widely deployed wind turbine with more than 12,000 installed,” said Bolze. Construction will begin in 2010 and will be completed in 2012.
The 2.5xl wind turbines for the Shepherds Flat wind farm will be assembled at GE’s site in Pensacola, Florida. In addition to supplying the wind turbines, GE will provide ten years of operational and maintenance services to the project. GE Energy Financial Services, which holds a large portfolio in more than 40 wind farms with a total capacity of 6 GW is also investing in the Shepherds Flat project.
“This is a smart investment in a well structured, contracted power project with an experienced developer using the nation’s best technology,” said Alex Urquhart, president & CEO of GE Energy Financial Services.
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Under three 20-year power purchase agreements, the Shepherds Flat wind farm will supply renewable energy to Southern California Edison, an Edison International (NYSE:EIX) company.
“As the nation’s leading utility for renewable energy, we are enthusiastic about the size and quality of this project,” said Marc Ulrich, Southern California Edison Vice President, Renewable and Alternative Power. “Wind power is an essential component to creating a clean, green energy future for California and the rest of the nation.”
The development of the wind farm is made possible because of California’s renewables portfolio standard, which if adopted nationally in the form of a strong renewable electricity standard would propel the growth of renewable energy throughout the country.
The project will help California meet both its capacity needs and renewable energy goals. With the capability to generate two billion kilowatt-hours per year of renewable energy, the wind farm will represent one of the largest projects in Southern California Edison’s renewable portfolio. The project will provide enough clean energy to power approximately 235,000 average California households – according to US Environmental Protection Agency methodology – and will avoid more than 1.5 million tons a year in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to equivalent fossil fuel generation.
The project certainly seems like it is set to move into the building phase of development; however it still attracts some controversy.
Some Controversy Remains
Wind energy projects have faced various objections (and will continue to do so) as more of them are proposed and built.
Some people find that they destroy the natural scenic beauty of an area and object on these grounds and for the Shepherd Flat project a coalition of local area residents are objecting on the grounds that the project site is located near the Columbia River, a national scenic area.
Environmentalists, who are by and large supportive of renewable energy however raise concerns about bird kills – and especially in the older smaller wind turbines, such as at Altamont Pass, this has been a real problem. The industry has claimed that the newer larger wind turbines kill fewer birds.
One interesting proposal for lowering migratory bird deaths that is being explored is the installation of radar to detect large groups of migratory birds and shut down the turbines when huge flocks are moving through the area. “Technology has evolved over the last several decades in significant ways,” Interior Secretary Salazar said. “We know how to do wind farms in ways that minimize and mitigate the effect on birds.
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