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Aluminium smelter builds wind plant

Golden Northwest Aluminum is building its own power plant -- including a 24 MW wind farm -- to make up for the supply lost due to drought affecting the Northwest's hydro system. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) asked aluminium companies to shut down for up to two years to help the federal power marketing agency meet its other electric loads. BPA is buying back contracts from the smelters at a cost that at least pays the wages of laid-off workers.

One of those -- Golden Northwest -- agreed to shut down its two smelters only through March 2002. But it says it will build a wind project and two gas generators, with a combined capacity of nearly 750 MW, to help make up for the power BPA has historically supplied directly to the smelters. The Klondike wind farm, named after an abandoned town in northern Oregon, is due on-line by early next year at the latest, says Allen Barkley of Northwestern Windpower LLC, set up by Bret Wilcox, the maverick owner of Golden Northwest Aluminum. Enron Wind is to install 16 1.5 MW turbines. "I can't say the power will go directly to the smelters, but the benefits will," Barkley says. "Bonneville is working directly with us to develop resources other than hydroelectric. We will sell the output of those resources to BPA and buy it back from them at the same price."

BPA recently announced support for 830 MW of wind projects in the next two years, but the 24 MW Klondike plant is separate to those chosen under BPA's 1000 MW solicitation. Barkley says the site could expand to 200 MW. Northwestern is looking at more sites with good winds and transmission in the counties surrounding the smelters along the Columbia River Gorge.

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