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Long awaited start in Oregon

Preparation is already under way to start building a 24.9 MW wind project in Oregon in the northwestern United States. The plant, which is being developed by a unit of US energy company FPL Group, will consist of 38 turbines made by Danish company Vestas Wind Systems A/S. Known as the Vansycle project, the plant will provide power to utility Portland General Electric when it goes on-line by June 1999, a deadline that must be met if it is to qualify for the current federal Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Vestas announced to the Danish stock exchange on May 14 that it had been chosen as the turbine vendor. "I am extremely satisfied with this large American order, which at last is to be delivered to a state other than California. This order has been placed by the world's largest owner of wind power plants," said the company's Johannes Poulsen. The turbines were ordered by ESI Vansycle Partners LP. ESI Inc is part of FPL, the Florida utility that also includes Florida Power & Light.

From Vestas-American Wind technology, Hans Jørn Ricks commented: "The wind turbines are to be installed in an area which is very reminiscent of Denmark." Construction of the access roads has started at the Umatilla County site, a farming area in inland Oregon.

Opposition to the plant has been muted. Indeed, local Indian tribes and members of the bird group, Audubon, are actually backing it. The ground work for community support had been laid by Kenetech Windpower, which originally proposed the plant. ESI Inc then bought the assets. That start was then built on by FPL, says Pete West of Renewable Northwest Project. "Both companies did a great job," he adds. "They were extraordinarily sensitive."

Fears for the wind plant's potential effect on birds has apparently not been an issue in the area, partly because the environment is already altered by agriculture. The project approval process was also streamlined when FPL chose to reduce the size from 25 MW to 24.9 MW, which meant that it was the local county not the state of Oregon that had jurisdiction. The process of approval tends to be quicker at the county level, an especially important factor with next year's expiration of the PTC.

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