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One of the largest cities in the American Pacific Northwest will be partially powered by wind. Portland in the state of Oregon and Portland General Electric (PGE) have reached an unprecedented agreement to buy wind power. During the five year agreement, PGE has agreed to buy 11.25 million kWh of wind power. The city will also save up to $850,000 on its electric bill.

"It's a great deal for the city," says Mike Lindberg, who oversees the city's energy office. He adds that enough wind will be generated to power city hall, the main county arts centre and ten fire stations. The deal, the first of its kind in America, was announced in early August. Portland has a population of almost half a million.

The savings will come from a new experimental pricing schedule that bases about $2 million in annual power purchases on the wholesale price of power for major users such as the city hall, water pump stations and waste water treatment plants. Since the city also wanted to promote renewable energy, PGE in return agreed to buy wind power that equals 5% of the energy purchased under the new tariff. Although the wind portion costs more, the market price of the rest is so much better, there is an overall saving.

Laure O'Keefe of the city's energy office says, "The city has always been interested in renewables and in doing more with renewables." Since 1979, city policy has encouraged use of renewables. In 1993 Portland also adopted a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because of greenhouse warming. "Wind power is a renewable resource preferred by many city residents. It is a clean power source with no impact on air quality. Wind has no impact on salmon runs, as with hydro resources, and wind farms can be local, so more investment dollars stay in the Northwest," says the city.

Four wind farms are currently in the pipeline in the Northwest, three of which PGE is involved in.

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